Sunisa (Suni) Lee made Olympic history this week by becoming the first Hmong American and the fifth consecutive American woman to earn Olympic gold in gymnastics’ all-around.
She continued the winning streak started by Carly Patterson in 2004 and continued by Nastia Liukin in 2008, Gabby Douglas in 2012, and Simone Biles in 2016.
American gold was uncertain, as the U.S.’s top contender, Simone Biles, stepped down from her Olympic position due to mental health concerns.
Lee, Grace McCallum, and Jordan Chiles stepped up to the plate on short notice to finish the competition in Biles’ place. They earned the team silver medals, finishing second to the Russian Olympic Committee.
“We want to walk out of here, not be dragged out of here on a stretcher or anything,” Biles said.
“After that vault, I was, ‘I’m not in the right headspace. I’m not going to lose a medal for this country and these girls because they worked way too hard for me to go out there and have them lose a medal,’ “ she added.
With the favored gymnast unable to perform, Lee’s opportunity of a lifetime was no longer overshadowed.
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However, it wasn’t until the third rotation that the 18-year-old from St. Paul, Minnesota took the lead.
After her floor exercise routine, Lee was unsure if she had solidified her win as her opponent, Rebeca Andrade of Brazil, had yet to perform her final routine.
August 2019,Sunisa “Suni” Lee said her biggest ambition was to compete in #Tokyo2020
The 18-year-old gymnast from Saint Paul,Minnesota,did more than that- wins #Gold in Artistic Gymnastics Women's Individual All-Around.
— #UEFA Champions League (@alimo_philip) July 29, 2021
Unfortunately for Andrade, she made critical mistakes, stepping out of bounds twice, securing the gold for Lee instead of herself.
Lee’s family, unable to attend the Olympic Games live due to COVID restrictions, watched from a packed room in St. Louis. They erupted in cheers when her gold medal win was solidified, chanting U.S.A.
— Gia Vang (@Gia_Vang) July 29, 2021
the people i do it all for 😭 I LOVE YOU ALL🤍 https://t.co/ofp9znzQ1j
— Sunisa lee (@sunisalee_) July 29, 2021
Lee’s eyes filled with tears when she heard the winning announcement, and she exchanged a big hug with her coach, Jess Graba.
Her teammates, who were sitting in the stands on the opposite side of the arena, burst into applause for her win.
The final standings:
- Sunisa Lee, USA — 57.433
- Rebeca Andrade, Brazil — 57.298
- Angelina Melnikova, Russian Olympic Committee — 57.199
- Vladislava Urazova, Russian Olympic Committee — 56.966
- Mai Murakami, Japan — 56.032
- Nina Derwael, Belgium — 55.965
- Tang Xijing, China — 54.498
- Jade Carey, USA — 54.199
— Scott Bregman (@sbregman87) July 29, 2021
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