Olympic gymnastics hopeful MyKayla Skinner hospitalized after COVID-19 infection

Plus, Rhys McClenaghan receives British Empire Medal, Epke Zonderland on Tokyo 2020 and more in our weekly gymnastics recap

By Scott Bregman
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Team USA gymnast MyKayla Skinner landed in the hospital this week after developing pneumonia, part of what she described as lingering problems related to COVID-19. Skinner, who served as the United States’ alternate at both the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and the 2019 World Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, posted the news on her Instagram story late Monday, 4 January.

“Life update! Jonas caught covid from a business trip a month ago and he was fine but I still have lingering problems,” Skinner’s post read. “We quarantined and I only went back to the gym when it was safe but it’s still been difficult and it turns out today I developed pneumonia.”

A day later, she posted an update on Twitter, saying she was at home recovering.

“I will be ok,” she said in part.

World pommel horse medallist Rhys McClenaghan receives British Empire Medal

Irish gymnast Rhys McClenaghan is used to winning medals. But his latest accolade was a bit different. The 21-year-old was awarded the British Empire Medal as part of the New Year Honours list for 2021. The list “recognizes the achievements and service of extraordinary people across the United Kingdom,” according the Gov.UK.  

“This BEM is a huge honour and it has made me very happy,” McClenaghan said, according to the Belfast News Letter.

A standout on the pommel horse, McClenaghan, who qualified to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games by means of his bronze medal at the 2019 World Championships, has enjoyed much success on his signature event in recent years including taking gold over Max Whitlock at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. 

“I rang my parents straight away and told them the good news and they were thrilled about it – they said ‘are we going to have to courtesy to you coming through the door now?’” said McClenaghan.

Olympic champion Epke Zonderland on staying for Tokyo 2020: “I really want to say goodbye at a tournament.”

No one would have blamed Epke Zonderland if he decided to move on from gymnastics when the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The 34-year-old father, nicknamed ‘the flying Dutchman,’ had already been to three Olympic Games, reaching the top of the podium in the high bar final at London 2012.

“I thought about quitting,” Zonderland admitted in an interview with NOS, “but I never consciously considered doing it. It didn't get that far. I really want to say goodbye at a tournament."

Zonderland appears to have already earned the high bar specialist qualification to Tokyo as his nearest competitor for the spot, Japan’s Miyachi Hidetaka, announced he would not attend the final competition that determines the qualifier. 

He may, however, have to face another Japanese man if he hopes to reclaim high bar Olympic gold in Uchimura Kohei who announced in 2020 that he’d be focus only on the event for Tokyo. The six-time World all-around champion and one of the sport’s all-time greats has been impressive on the event, including posting a massive 15.700 at December’s All Japan Championships.

“I now see an even bigger opponent in Uchimura,” said Zonderland.

Look no further than Olympic Channel

In case you missed, we caught up to Olympic gold medallist turned college head coach Jordyn Wieber ahead of the start of the NCAA women's gymnastics season. Wieber will lead her Arkansas Razorbacks against the Louisiana State University Tigers Friday night in the season opener.

“The one metaphor I keep using is things are constantly changing,” said Wieber of the uncertainties of a season amid the coronavirus pandemic, “and just like in gymnastics, when you do a release move on bars in the air, depending on whether you're going to be close or far from the bar, you have to make adjustments. You have to be ready to adjust on the fly.

From the vault...

This week, we're showcasing Team GB on the uneven bars from the women's team final at London 2012. Star and Olympic bronze medallist Beth Tweddle anchored the event for her team, posting a 15.833. Her mark was the top score on the apparatus in the team event. Days later, Tweddle earned bronze in the uneven bars final behind Aliya Mustafina of Russia and He Kexin of China.