It's a Cinderella story of Olympic proportions.
Last weekend, U.S. gymnast MyKayla Skinner's dream of victory at her first—and likely last—Olympics was all but over. But after her team's top star Simone Biles withdrew from the vault final, she was brought back for the chance at a comeback. And what a comeback it was.
On Sunday, Aug. 1, MyKayla, who planned to retire from gymnastics after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, won the silver medal at the event, her first Olympic medal and the third for the U.S. team.
"Hey it's MyKayla Skinner, your vault silver medalist. So cool!" the 24-year-old said in an Instagram video posted by Team USA. "I just wanted to thank all my friends, family and fans for everything you have done. You guys have seriously been supporting me through it all, through the ups and downs. Thank you for never giving up on me."
She continued, "I know you guys all back home have been cheering and been so excited once the news came out that I'd be in the vault lineup and you knew that I'd been wanting this so, so bad so thank you all so, so much. I love you and all dreams come true so don't forget, never give up."
Simone, who cheered her teammates on from the sidelines as she sat out two finals on Sunday, paid tribute to MyKayla on her Instagram Story.
"GO @mykaylaskinner2016," she wrote. "I'm so freaking proud of you."
Simone has withdrawn from five out of six Olympic finals due to mental health concerns and a case of the "twisties," or mid-air disorientation not uncommon among gymnasts. It remains unclear if she will compete in her last remaining event, the balance beam final, later this week.
"MyKayla is living proof that you can achieve whatever you set your mind to," her husband, Jonas Harmer, wrote on Instagram. "She set off on the Olympic route again 2 years ago chasing unfinished business from Rio 2016 and I've never seen more resilience in a human being. The world has no idea all that this girl has been through."
The Arizona native's road to the Tokyo Olympics was not easy. MyKayla, who is also a University of Utah gymnast, failed to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics and was made an was an alternate for Team USA at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She told NBC Sports last year that "being an alternate is probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do in gymnastics. The whole time I was in Rio, I probably cried every single night."
Over the past year, MyKayla also suffered health problems. Last December, she injured her Achilles and month later, she contracted COVID-19 and was later hospitalized with coronavirus-related pneumonia.
Earlier this month, MyKayla announced on Instagram, "The Olympics will be my last gymnastics competition before I officially retire." Last weekend, the gymnast competed as an Olympian for the first time in the qualifying round at the Tokyo Olympics, competing as an individual, but did not rank high enough to continue to the finals.
"Heartbroken is an understatement, but I am proud of myself for getting here after everything I've been through," she wrote on Instagram at the time. "This is closing the book on my gymnastics career, and my only regrets were things outside my control. So no regrets."
She added on Twitter, "#NeverGiveUp."
In his Instagram post, MyKayla's husband wrote, "The medal wasn't won tonight, but was won every morning when she got up and went to practice even though all parts of her body hurt. It was won every moment she didn't give up despite injuries, illness, postponement, and every setback in the books. You see the medal, but don't see MyKayla with ice packs on her body every night before bed or tears in her eyes every time something came up and she had to ask 'is this it.'"
Jonas added, "Words can't describe how much she inspires and motivates me and how proud I am of her. For now I am excited to finally enjoy some alone time with my wife… Gymnastics has had its fair share for long enough now...I love you MyKayla!"
MyKayla responded, "Awe baby!!! Couldn't have won this medal without you. Can't wait to come home and see you. I just wanna give you the biggest hug. You have put your life on hold for me and have done everything to support me. I'm one lucky girl...love u babe!"
She also wrote on her Instagram Story, "I love you babe. Couldn't have asked for a better husband," adding a red heart emoji.
See photos of MyKayla's journey at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics: