A few days ago, MyKayla Skinner thought she had retired.
The 24-year-old competed as an individual specialist in the qualification round of the women's artistic gymnastics competition and scored high enough to place fourth behind Simone Biles and Jade Carey on vault. But a rule that only allows two gymnast per country to advance to event finals meant that Skinner wouldn't get to compete for an individual medal. It seemed an Olympic dream that took three attempts to materialize had come to an end. Then, Biles withdrew from the vault final and opened a spot for a second American to compete.
Skinner stepped up and hit her two vaults in the competition to win a silver medal, her first Olympic medal.
On her first vault, a Cheng, she scored a 15.033. She added a 14.800 on her second vault, an Amanar, and finished with an average of 14.916. Only Rebeca Andrade of Brazil finished with a higher average, a 15.083 that won her gold.
Jade Carey, who entered the final heavily favored to win a medal, had an uncharacteristic error on the run up to her first vault. She stutter stepped before doing a round-off onto the springboard and couldn't get enough height to safely complete the Cheng. She successfully performed an Amanar as her second vault, but the average scores resulted in her placing eighth.
Following last weekend's qualifying, Skinner would have not expected to play any further part in these Games. She should have been heading home to Arizona days ago because of the established COVID-19 protocols that athletes are expected to leave Tokyo within 48 hours of finishing their final competition. However, Biles told her coach that maybe Skinner should not go home, in case she needed to step in. She was texted about not leaving.
"I'm 24 and to be able to come back into the game in place of Simone and to have her support -- she's pushing me along every single day," Skinner told reporters. "It's so humbling."
Skinner, describing the last few days as "crazy," said: "I was kind of getting ready to get onto a plane to go home. And then Simone was down ... after team finals."
Information from Reuters contributed to this report.