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Rio de Janeiro
MyKayla Skinner will come to the University of Utah knowing the USA women's gymnastics team easily would have won the gold medal with her in the lineup.
Nobody can say Gabby Douglas didn't deserve her own spot on this team, though.
So the future Ute gymnast will have a weird place in history. As the first alternate for the U.S. team in Rio, Skinner is forever the sixth member of the Final Five.
The only real mystery of this Olympic competition, which the Americans dominated in stunning fashion with a 184.897-176.688 victory over Russia, was whether Douglas belonged on the team or if she was a sentimental pick as a potential two-time gold medalist. She was chosen instead of Skinner, who performed brilliantly in the U.S. Olympic Trials a month ago.
Douglas validated her selection with a strong bars routine Tuesday. That's not one of Skinner's best events, which is why national team coordinator Martha Karolyi and her committee picked Douglas and Madison Kocian. Skinner would have performed more than adequately in any event especially vault or floor for the Americans to win the gold, but anyone would have to say Karolyi's lineup card was filled out shrewdly.
The reality is that gold medal-winning skier Lindsay Vonn, who's shown in a funny commercial failing miserably in an effort to become a Summer Games athlete, probably could have done well enough on the floor for the Americans to win.
In the Olympic final, teams pick three gymnasts in each event and every score counts. Kocian's 15.933 score and Douglas' 15.766 mark were what everyone expected from them. So Karolyi's strategy worked not that it really mattered, considering the way Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and Laurie Hernandez performed in the other events.
No medals are awarded to gymnastics alternates, only to those who post scores. Skinner was worthy of competing for this team Tuesday and winning a medal. So was Douglas. The 2012 all-around champion became merely a bars specialist in the team finals, but she did her part. This was like a former NBA all-star being willing to come off the bench. She performed her role gracefully, and spoke graciously about it afterward.
Even in her diminished status, compared with London in 2012, the victory "doesn't feel different going out there and competing with these amazing girls and being on the podium," she said. "I really wanted to do a good bars set for Team USA, really get a good score."
Douglas was even nice when I asked her about how Skinner had contributed to the team in practice at the Karolyi ranch in Texas and in Rio, while being available as an injury replacement. "MyKayla is … a character," Douglas said, with a few seconds' pause. "She's always supported us."
So here's the history: Skinner's fans were outraged about the team selections, and one of them posted a photoshopped picture of the "real" Olympic team with Skinner in place of Douglas. Skinner, an active social media participant, retweeted it.
Skinner handled the aftermath well, apologizing personally to Douglas and on Twitter. She was disappointed to not be needed in Rio when the lineup became official for Sunday's preliminaries, but she also realized she had done everything she could to make the 2016 Olympics, including waiting a year to enroll at Utah.
She's eager to perform in front of the Huntsman Center fans, who undoubtedly will welcome her as an Olympic-level performer just one without a gold medal to show for it.