Skye Blakely – Ready To Soar 

By Ashlee Buhler 

As we head into the upcoming U.S. Classic in July and U.S. Championships in August, Inside Gymnastics will be introducing you to some of the rising stars for Team USA! Plus, subscribe now for our August issue featuring a full Championships Preview! 

Skye Blakely is a name you’re going to be hearing a lot in the next two years as the Paris 2024 Olympics inch closer and closer. Already at the halfway mark to Paris, Blakely is one of the brightest rising stars for Team USA, and for good reason. 

Last year her name was unexpectedly thrown into the mix as a darkhorse for the Tokyo Olympics when the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the Games by a year. The FIG deemed all gymnasts turning senior in 2021 eligible for Tokyo, meaning Blakely was in. With her success as a junior gymnast, the possibility of making the Tokyo team wasn’t a wild concept for avid gymnastics fans. 

Although it wasn’t a part of her original plan, Blakely was determined to give the opportunity her all. She won the All-Around title at the American Classic, placed 3rd on bars at the U.S. Classic and 7th All-Around at the U.S. Championships. There was just one more meet left, the Olympic Trials! Whether she would go on to make the team or not—the opportunity to participate in such a prestigious meet in front of 20,000+ fans was a rare opportunity to gain experience in the type of setting she hoped to find herself again in 2024. But everything came crashing down during the one touch warm up on vault when she injured her elbow just moments before the competition was set to begin. Blakely withdrew from the meet and underwent surgery shortly after. That was the end of her first senior season. 

2022 marks a new beginning for Blakley, a fresh start, as she embarks on the shortened path for Paris 2024. Under the guidance of Yevegeny Marchenko, who coached Carly Patterson to Olympic Gold in 2004, and wearing WOGA on her hip, the same club that has produced numerous other Olympic and World Champions such as Nastia Liukin and Madison Kocian, Blakely is ready to forge her own path and build her own legacy. 

Blakley is off to a phenomenal start in 2022, placing 2nd All-Around at Winter Cup, winning gold with team USA at the DTP Pokal Cup, and recently being named to the Pan American Championships team set to compete July 15-17. Inside Gymnastics caught up with Blakely to discuss her return to competition, upgrades, future goals in the sport, and more! 

In 2021 you had the super unique opportunity to contend for an Olympic spot several years ahead of schedule but unfortunately got injured at Olympic Trials. How disappointing was that for you and how did you pick yourself back up again? 

It was hard. It was very disappointing and I think it really shocked me. It’s something I wasn’t prepared for. It was just hard knowing I missed probably one of the biggest opportunities of my life, at least at that moment. Picking myself back up was hard but I worked with a sports psychologist and began looking ahead to the future and all the opportunities I have, which keeps me going! 

Winter Cup this year was your first meet back doing All-Around since Olympic Trials and you got to compete in front of a home crowd! How was that experience and how would you rate your performance? 

I was nervous at first with it being my first full meet back but once I started competing I started getting back into the groove of things. It was exciting knowing I was healthy again and I was able to compete, especially in front of my family and friends! It probably wasn’t the best performance of my lifetime but I made myself proud knowing that I’ve come so far after the injury. 

Did you have a pretty big turn out with friends and family? 

I had quite a bit, I don’t know how many, but my college coaches were there too, so that was exciting! I had my parents, some cousins, and some teammates! It’s nice feeling all the support. You get a lot of energy from the crowd and it really helps push you to do your best.

You also went to Stuttgart earlier this year, how do you feel you did there? 

It was good! Again I’m still ramping up from being out for so long, so I was still getting back my difficulty and my confidence but I had fun and it was a good experience. I’m really proud of the team too and that we were able to get gold! 

That was your first international trip since 2020 when everything got shut down because of COVID. Do you have any fun stories from being back with the team? 

It was a lot different experience from the last time we had been on an international assignment just with the COVID protocols. I just think traveling together is really fun and being able to spend time with each other and getting to know everybody outside of gymnastics. It’s just a lot of fun memories! 

Did you have time to go sightseeing while you were there? 

Not this time! 

What are your thoughts on the new leadership within the U.S. program with Dan Baker, Alicia Sacramone-Quinn and Chellsie Memmel being hired. Did you have a chance to meet or work with any of them at the June national team camp? 

Chellsie wasn’t at this camp but Alicia was! It’s definitely different. We’re used to it being one person in charge but now it’s three. Having new faces at these camps is different but I’m looking forward to seeing how things will change and how we will work together so we can all be better as a team! 

How is training going right now and how are you feeling physically and mentally as you gear up for the remainder of the 2022 season? 

I’m feeling good and I’m enjoying it! Some days are hard but without those hard days you can’t get to where you want. 

Are you working on any upgrades that you can share? 

I am currently working on a double layout full on floor, which I’m excited to put in this season. And then I’ve upgraded my bar dismount to a double front and then hopefully adding a half twist either at the end of this year or next year!

Where do you see yourself in the mix of Team USA? Do you see yourself as someone who has potential to win a national title or a world medal? 

I do believe so! It depends on how I compete at these meets but I do see myself as a strong contender and think I have potential to win some medals with the U.S. 

With that being said, what are your specific goals for this season as well as your long term goals? 

This season I definitely want to get another national team title and hopefully make the Worlds team, that would be really exciting for me! My long term goal is definitely 2024! That has been my dream for a very long time and I want to make that a reality! 

How do you feel about the timeline for Paris given the shortened quad due to the Tokyo Olympics being pushed back? Are you where you want to be right now as far as your preparation?

I’m kind of where I expected. 2024 has always been the original goal so the 2021 Olympic Trials were just added in. I’m still on the same course as far as training to get myself ready for 2024.

Last year you committed to Florida, which is where your sister Sloane currently competes! What made Florida the right choice for you? 

I’ve always been interested in Florida but definitely going on my official visit, it was just so exciting and I had so much fun. The energy from the team and the coaches made me feel so welcome and at home. Academics has always been important to me, so Florida being ranked so high in academics is important for furthering my education. Just being there, the environment of the campus, it just felt right. And a perk is that my sister is there! 

What year are you expected to start? Do you plan to defer at all to train for Paris? 

I’ll be going in the fall of 2024, right after the Olympics! 

Over the years what is the best piece of advice you’ve received and who is it from?

I would definitely say my sister, just telling me to take things one day at a time and turn my dreams into reality! She’s been a big influence in my gymnastics career and I’ve always looked up to her. She has always encouraged me, so the best advice always comes from her! 

Photos by Lloyd Smith and Grace Chiu for Inside Gymnastics

For more:

2022 Winter Cup Photo Gallery

U.S. Junior Champ Katelyn Jong Ready For The Jump To The Senior Ranks 

Rising Star Nola Matthews Readies For The Road Ahead 

Joscelyn Roberson – A Star On The Rise 

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