Red Rock Coach Shares Thoughts On Three Utah Gymnasts Making US Olympic Team
TOKYO — The eyes of the world are focused on the Team USA Gymnasts. And for the first time in history, three members of the team have ties to one school — The University of Utah.
MyKayla Skinner, Grace McCallum and Kara Eaker are all representing Team USA and the University of Utah in Tokyo.
While this hasn’t been the journey two of these athletes had hoped for, it’s still a gymnast’s dream to make it to the Olympics.
KSL-TV’s Shara Park sat down with Red Rock Coach Tom Farden to get his take on this historic moment.
“Has it sunk in yet that you have three athletes, you’ve either coached or will coach, basically half of the Olympic team?” Park asked Farden.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet, and we’re just so proud of all of them,” replied Farden. “They’ve worked so hard for a lifetime. They, as young athletes, set this goal to be an Olympian. And then for them to persevere, and stay focused, and work so diligently and tremendously hard at this craft for them to actually happen. And we’re just over the moon for them. So excited for each of them.”
Park then asked what this does for his program.
“It shows, you know, the U.S. athletes and athletes across the world who are looking at NCAA options that Utah’s a place for the highest of high levels,” said Farden.
Skinner took the floor as the senior most member of Team USA.
Her age — just another tool in her Olympic belt.
“Tell me about MyKayla. What is she like? Tell me the type of athlete she is?” asked Park.
“Natural born fighter. I mean, it’s just the way she was so competitive in her career and continues to be, and she just won’t quit,” said Farden.
It’s been a long road to Tokyo for Skinner, and unfortunately, her journey has come to an end.
A two-time NCAA champion and Team USA alternate in Rio, Skinner took a year off of NCAA competition to focus on her Olympic dream.
During that time, she was hospitalized with COVID-19, the Games were delayed, and she dealt with a bone spur in her ankle.
She now plans to retire after the Tokyo Olympics.
“The elite level gymnastics is so tough and so arduous and so tenuous, on not only their bodies, but their minds and their emotions and everything else,” said Farden. “And so, there is a limited time for people to excel at this level, with the exception of a couple of people. But MyKayla’s heart really shines through.”
The future of the Red Rocks now shifts to two freshman — Grace McCallum and Kara Eaker.
Eaker, an alternate on Team USA, tested positive for COVID-19 in Tokyo.
Unfortunately, she is no longer eligible to step in if needed at the Games.
“(Eaker) is somebody who does fierce gymnastics when she’s on fire and she wants something. You know, she’s somebody who I watch and I step back and I go, ‘Hmm,'” said Farden.
Farden said each Red Rock brings something special to Team USA.
For McCallum, she’s an all-around threat.
“Grace is one of those athletes that’s very dependable, very consistent, can be a threat and at any event at any given time. And then really, if you watch her trajectory, from April until now, she’s only gotten better. So really exciting to see her kind of hit her stride and peek at the Olympics,” said Farden.
“What advice would you give her?” Park asked Farden.
“You know, for Grace, it’s simple — you have a lot of choices here in Tokyo, Grace. The one choice that you have to choose is trust. Trust your trade. Choose trust and trust your training. Trust your coaches and trust all the experiences you’ve already been through as a world class athlete, and go out there and do your thing,” replied Farden.
Trust is key in gymnastics.
Coach Farden showed us just how much trust is needed for these young women to do what they do.
“The business card and balance beam are almost the same width,” said Farden.
“Oh my gosh, I mean this is precision here,” Park replied.
“I think vault’s the most technical event,” Farden said.
Farden believes his Red Rocks will bring success to Team USA in Tokyo and wishes he could be there to see it.
He said he couldn’t be more proud.
“How hard is it going to be not being able to be there and to watch them and be watching from home?
“Yeah, it’s gonna be hard, but I’ll be able to settle in and watch the Olympics like everybody else and and cheer from my living room,” he replied. “We’re just over the moon for them. So excited for each of them.”
Shara Park also talked with Coach Farden about Simone Biles and what an incredible athlete she is.
His thoughts will be shared Monday morning on KSL Today.