Controversial Gymnast MyKayla Skinner Set to Make Olympic Debut in Tokyo

Much of the controversy around MyKayla Skinner revolves around accusations of racism. Learn more about the gymnast competing at the Tokyo Olympics.


Jul. 24 2021, Published 3:18 p.m. ET

A Reddit user recently listed the controversies surrounding MyKayla Skinner, a U.S. gymnast making her Olympics debut at the Tokyo games tomorrow, Sunday, July 25.

“As someone whose been passionately following the U.S. women’s gymnastics team … I am appalled by the idea of someone such as MyKayla Skinner representing the United States at the Olympics,” user u/Dramatic_Quarter wrote, in part. “The way she conducts herself online and outside of gymnastics is an embarrassment to our country.”

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Nevertheless, MyKayla is slated to compete in the Olympic qualification round tomorrow, where she has a shot at making the event finals on vault and floor exercise, according to USA Today.

Here are some of the controversies that have aligned some gymnastics fans against the 24-year-old…

MyKayla retweeted a series of racist emojis in 2016.

Some Twitter users have flat-out accused MyKayla of racism. “Can’t wait to see racist-ass MyKayla Skinner come home with zero medals,” one person tweetedrecently.

Another Twitter user wrote: “The gymternet forgave MyKayla for racist comments but refuses to believe a Black American athlete has received racism. Yikes!”

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Why do people see bigotry in MyKayla? Well, according to Slate, the gymnast retweeted a racist string of emojis in 2016 after ending up as an alternate at the Rio Olympics, along with a Photoshopped image of her face on Gabby Douglas’ body.

She later offered an apology about her Twitter activity. “I’m so sorry if I offended anyone,” she wrote at the time. “I was in the wrong by retweeting that tweet! I’m so grateful to be part of the team! Go USA.”

In a separate but related controversy, at least one Tumblr user also alleged that the athlete dropped the n-word in a tweet from a prior Twitter account.

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Critics have also called out MyKayla’s pandemic behavior.

According to Today, MyKayla contracted COVID-19 in December 2020 and battled the virus for two weeks.

But gymnastics fans alleged that the Arizona native still went out in public during that time, like the person who criticized her on Twitter for “going out to restaurants while having COVID-19.”

On Reddit, meanwhile, u/Dramatic_Quarter wrote, “MyKayla and her husband have shown their incredible selfishness in the COVID-19 pandemic. Going out, partying, living their life as normal, MyKayla has showcased how little she cares for the millions of people who not only suffered from the physical and financial consequences of the pandemic, but the hundreds of thousands of people who have died.”

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She has also gotten flack for her demeanor.

For other fans, MyKayla has an attitude problem. In 2019, for instance, she appeared to make a lunging gesture at the judges after getting a disappointing score at a meet. That same year, she posted this tweet:

“So far this season, I’ve stuck five double fulls without both judges giving me a 10. Stay tuned for our meet vs UCLA on Saturday and see if we can make it six!”

As Slate’s Rebecca Schuman pointed out, however, plenty of male athletes have also shown their frustration under the spotlight. “But there is something particular to the ‘beauty sports’ (gymnastics, figure skating, etc.) that requires an inerrantly sweet disposition — one that matches the pageant hair and makeup from the neck up, and not the grueling training and grit required for everything neck-down.”

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