USA Gymnastics

U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials Media Day: Skinner, Lee, McCallum, & More

U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials Media Day: Skinner, Lee, McCallum, & More

MyKayla Skinner, Suni Lee, Grace McCallum, Emma Malabuyo, and Skye Blakely talk to the media ahead of the 2021 Olympic Trials.

Jun 24, 2021 by Kelly Feng
U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials Media Day: Skinner, Lee, McCallum, & More

Mykayla Skinner realizes her feelings are all over the place and she’s excited to be at her second Olympic Trials. 

"It’s such an honor to be here and make it this far, especially after everything we've been through— it’s been crazy.  After championships, it was nice to have at least two weeks to come home and train." 

Skinner admits that from classics to championships was a rush, but she could come down a little bit and get her mindset ready for Olympic Trials. 

When returning to elite, Skinner originally wanted to come back as an individual but High-Performance director Tom Forester mentioned Jade Carey was already going that route, so Forester wanted her to do the all-around. 

Skinner’s primary goal is the team, but she is open to the second individual spot. She said that every workout has been on the podium, which is really nice because the gymnasts get to feel the equipment before they compete. 

Skinner was joined by national teammates Emma Malabuyo, Sunisa Lee, Grace McCallum, and Skye Blakely, talking to the U.S. Trials Media Day press. 

With gymnasts now being older, for example, members of the German Olympic gymnastic team and, of course, Oksana Chusovitina is now 46,  Skinner was asked about being one of the older gymnasts and how acceptable that’s become in the past several years. 

"Being older has been awesome. With all the experience I've had, I feel my gymnastics has been better than ever, and I wish more athletes could get to this point. If you can find a routine that works for you and save your body and maintain a good schedule." 

Skinner thinks about other gymnasts who might get the opportunity to compete when they get older. “Without overdoing it and burning yourself out, a lot more gymnasts could last much longer.”

She’s hoping her message will be heard in other gyms, and it will show coaches that you don’t need to train seven hours a day. 

“Being at this point, it's just been more fun." 

Breakfast at Tiffany’s 

Malabuyo, who finished fourth at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships earlier this month, comes into the Trials with a renewed confidence. While she's been flying under the radar with past injuries, she finished behind Jordan Chiles, surprising some and delighting many. 

She talked about her dazzling floor routine from the previous meet. The enchanting "Breakfast at Tiffany" routine was a piece of performance art. 

Malabuyo collaborated with Kim Zmeskal to create the “Breakfast at Tiffany” floor routine, where the main character wore a black dress. At Championships, inspired by the 1961 American romantic comedy—Malabuyo wore a sparkly black leotard complete with pearls. 

She enjoyed the process of selecting floor music and the character, finding the leo, becoming inspired to create choreography from looking at pictures. 

Malabuyo was asked about the COVID-19 delay and how that benefited her. 

"This extra year helped me. This past year, we've had a different training schedule where we can work with my body, and it’s very personalized. That was the main key to making it through this year. [After that], the rest of my body healed, and was ready for this season." 

Malabuyo said she feels good heading into Trials. U.S. Championship placements gave her a boost of confidence, and she’s excited for this weekend! 

“I’m grateful to even make it this far!”

Staying Consistent 

Suni Lee placed second at U.S. Championships but what’s most important to her at Trials is to stay consistent. While Lee mentioned at that competition that she would do all four floor passes at Trials, she has decided to work on evenness, get stronger and fine-tune her routines. On bars and beam, she’s working on consistency and doing what she’s been doing. 

Lee’s parents will be coming to St. Louis tomorrow, eager to see this the "last big meet" before Tokyo since families aren’t allowed to see their loved ones in the Olympic competition. But she said they are trying to soak it all in and enjoy the competition. Lee also takes comfort in the last-minute advice her father always delivers. 

“Usually, my dad gives me a pep talk, and it helps me in my competition," Lee said. 

Lee has a variety of uneven bar routines, often deciding on what skill or connection she’ll perform based on where she lands her first release move. 

"I can usually tell by my throw on my Nabieva. If it's a little late, I know I'll be further and I have to be patient. If I rush, it'll be close to the bar, and I know I can't connect out of it. When I'm at practice, I usually make the whole thing," Lee said. 

The goal for the weekend is to do what she did at the Championships or better. Because if she did perform a  little better than she did at Championships, she would feel a lot more comfortable. She said she felt a lot of pressure from social media and everybody around her because she feels she needs to stay in the top two again.

“So I’m just trying not to focus on that because I don’t want to start overthinking. I just have to keep doing what I do." 

Amazing Grace 

McCallum is super excited and honored to be with the best of best be at trials. The past couple of weeks, she’s been working on her consistency and making routines exactly where they have to be. 

McCallum feels the delay added positive things to her gymnastics as it gave her time to think about routines plus an extra year in the elite system, which is “awesome.” She’s taking the delay as a positive and enjoying having an additional year. 

Consistency comes from numbers and in earlier competitions this year, McCallum was coming off an injury. However, these past several weeks, she’s increasing her numbers and feels more confident coming into Trials. 

McCallum's been wearing an “Amazing Grace” jacket. Her coach, Sarah Jantzi, was inspired by the nickname for Maggie Nichols, “Swaggie Maggie,” and wanted a nickname for McCallum.  

She is also looking forward to competing next year for Utah. “It will be great because there is so much pressure at these [elite] meets—tons of people and big crowds. So I think it will be an easier transition going into college gymnastics knowing that they have huge crowds and lots of fans.” 

An Unexpected Opportunity 

A famous alum of WOGA recently reached out to Blakely — 2004 All-Around Olympic Champion Carly Patterson. The two share the same coach, Evgeny Marchenko. Blakely said it was great to hear from Patterson and knowing that Patterson is there for her. 

Although she is a first-year senior, Blakely handles herself well, so what goes into that mindset? What is her mental skillset? 

Blakely said she didn’t put too much pressure on herself. I think I went in smooth. “My coaches are treating it as another season and the same routines. Just trying to tell me to be calm and trust my training. Don’t make everything too big of a deal,” Blakely said. 

She’s excited about her bar routine this weekend. “I’ve been working on my numbers and consistency. I want to go out there both days and hit my bar routine. I would feel great doing that,“ Blakely said.  

Blakely said she feels honored and blessed about being able to compete at the Olympic Trials.

 “I am grateful to be at this competition.”