2023 Winter Cup: Only competing two events, Skye Blakely pacing herself for long elite season

By Karyssa D'Agostino | February 25, 2023
WOGA's Skye Blakely trains on uneven bars during podium training at the 2023 Winter Cup.
WOGA's Skye Blakely trains on uneven bars during podium training at the 2023 Winter Cup. (© Amy Sanderson)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – WOGA’s Skye Blakely has been making waves in the elite world for some time now, and with the start of a new season upon us, some may be surprised to hear she is only competing two events at the 2023 Winter Cup.

When the field was released, it was clear Blakely was to be the biggest name in attendance at Winter Cup. As a result, she quickly became the favorite to win the all-around title, but the 18-year-old has other plans. Gymnastics Now spoke with the world champion and U.S. National Team member about her decision.

Skye Blakely (USA) – BB (Qualifications) @ 2022 World Championships

“This meet is really early in the season compared to what we have at the end of this year,” Blakely said. “So I’m not trying to do anything too much, or go too hard now, because this is not really where it matters the most.”

The Florida commit is already qualified for the U.S. Championships, which gives her a sense of relief and allows her to look ahead and plan accordingly for the long elite season that spans from now until October.

“I’m just trying to slowly gain confidence and just practice my skills and my routine,” Blakely explained. “This is still a great opportunity and a great meet to be at.”

What Blakely is doing is commonly referred to as pacing – her and her coaches are looking at the longterm plan in an effort to peak at the right time and be at her best for worlds in the fall. Competing in Louisville is a great way to get back into the swing of things before she potentially receives international assignments to represent the U.S. in the spring and summer.

Blakely announced on Friday, just a day ahead of senior women’s competition, that she will only be competing on uneven bars and balance beam. She did train floor during podium training but is resting her legs by not competing that event or vault.

“I think I decided yesterday (Thursday) mainly that I was just going to do two events,” Blakely said. “I just think it’s smart. I’m still training vault, and I’m still training floor, but I just think for this meet it was best for me just to do two events.”

Blakely is one of the more tenured elite athletes in the field, meaning she has a large amount of elite experience under her belt and is using what she’s learned in previous seasons and international competition to better herself for the 2023 season.

Skye Blakely (USA) – BB (Event Final) @ 2022 World Championships

Specifically, Blakely spoke about what she learned during the 2022 World Championships in Liverpool.

“I really learned about how I handle being nervous in a new environment,” Blakely said. “I think that really helped me just understand how I will act and be in big environments like that or a big stage like that.”

One situation she handled well is the hair ribbon incident at worlds, when one of her hair ribbons came undone and was in her face during her routine in beam finals. Even after that, Blakely isn’t entirely anti-ribbon.

“I don’t know about anti-ribbon. Things happen, mistakes happen, and I can’t even say I fell because of the ribbon – a fall’s a fall,” Blakely reflected. “I can’t just say oh, no ribbon, I would have won. That’s unfair. I think that it was still an amazing routine. I’m very proud of myself. And I think I still showed everybody that I’m good at beam.”

It’s experiences like that, while competing on such a big stage, that Blakely said she’s grateful happened while she was 17 years old and not later in her career. They’re also experiences that allow her to help younger athletes that are looking to her for advice.

“I think it’s really cool, because I enjoy sharing my experience and any advice that I have, or trying to relate to them, too,” Blakely said. “I feel like that’s important, especially for my teammates who are younger than me.”

Originally tweeted by Chalk Warrior (@chalkwarrior) on February 19, 2023.

Blakely stunned on bars at the WOGA Classic last weekend with a difficult bar routine that included a piked Jaeger, piked Tkatchev to Pak salto, Van Leeuwen, and stuck double front half.

No all-around, no problem. Blakely is ready to bring home some more Winter Cup hardware.