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Skinner's Path to Tokyo

Skinner's Path to Tokyo

by Brina April 25, 2019

So, it's official: MyKayla Skinner is making a run for 2020. Let's take a minute and run through the various ways she could get there.

There are three ways to make it to Tokyo as a US gymnast. The first is to be selected to the four-person team. Team qualifications will be four up, three count, so these spots are all but certain to go to all-arounders, even if they have a routine or two that's not at the level that the US would prefer to use in finals.

The second, which is essentially out of reach for Skinner, is to win an event World Cup series. According to USAG's rules, Skinner is not eligible for funding to take this route. It's possible that, due to USAG's ambiguous reading of the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act, they will feel compelled to let her register for these events if she self-funds, but I've never understood what part of that law requires them to do so. That aside, it is not in Team USA's interest to have both Skinner and Carey competing for individual nominative spots. As we've discussed, nominative spots are strictly inferior to non-nominative ones from USAG's perspective because 1) you lose the spot if someone gets injured, and 2) you lose the flexibility to pick the gymnast who looks best right before the Olympics themselves.

The third and final way is to be picked for a non-nominative individual spot, which the US is likely to earn at Pan Ams or through the all-around World Cup series this season. Strategically, the US will probably be hoping to use this spot for someone with a great shot at an event medal who doesn't have the all-around chops to make it on the team. However, to maximize medals under the two-per-country constraint, they'll probably want that person to be a specialist on an event where the four team members and the other individual competitor aren't that strong. In more concrete terms, if Simone Biles is on the team and Jade Carey is going an individual, there is absolutely no reason to take a third vault and floor specialist - especially not if bars specialists like Perea or Locklear are looking competitive.

Skinner has a great shot at making the team if there's another all-arounder whose bars and beam are too good to leave behind despite weaker vault and floor routines. Riley McCusker comes to mind, as does whichever top gymnast is inevitably going to have an Achilles/ACL injury and rush to come back for the Olympics, Nichols-style. Normally, Carey would fit perfectly into that role and at this point in the quad would likely be USAG's first choice, but she can't be on the team or else the US will lose the individual spot that she will likely earn.

As for the the non-nominative individual spot, let's just be honest about it: Skinner's changes look a lot better if Carey gets injured. (I tried to word that sentence a BUNCH of different ways and they all came out like a thinly veiled threat to Carey's health, so, to be clear, I hope everyone stays healthy!) If Carey is in top shape, then the US will only take Skinner if they're completely bereft of bars/beam medal contenders - which seems unlikely. There's an argument for taking a third gymnast who could medal on vault over a gymnast like 2017 Locklear who could just maybe make the bars final but likely won't medal - but it's not a very strong one.

Finally, let's talk about the actual gymnastics that Skinner will need to do. Regaining her Amanar and Cheng is a must. Carey has been killing the game internationally with a DTY and Cheng, and after three years in NCAA, Skinner's DTY is fantastic, but I'm guessing her Cheng is not at Carey's level and Skinner will need to be more than the US's third-best vaulter. Under today's CoP, I believe Skinner's 2016 elite floor would come in around a 5.7 d-score, but she's missing a composition requirement and can easily bump that up. (Someone should check that though number though.) For contrast, Carey's d-score has been around a 5.8 these days, and Biles is up at 6.6. Skinner will also likely need to put together bars and beam routines that meet the "usable in qualifications" bar, which I'd say means cracking about a 13.9. Subtracting about 0.5 from her old scores to account for changes in the code, this could be doable but is by no means guaranteed.

So is there a path? Yes. Is it a clear one? No. But when has the path to the Olympics ever been easy?

Tags: Olympic Talk