American Suni Lee is your Tokyo Olympics all-around gymnastics champion.
She also allows American women to continue their streak of all-around titles. The USA has produced the winner in five straight Olympics.
Lee is a first-generation American whose family came to this country from Laos. She is the first American gymnast of Hmong descent to make an Olympics gymnastics team. Her family settled in Minnesota. And Lee trained especially hard for her dad, who suffered a spinal cord injury two years ago and now uses a wheelchair.
Given her family’s immigrant experience, standing on the Tokyo Olympics podium and hearing the national anthem probably meant more for Suni Lee.
Lee, coming into Tokyo, was considered the United States’ second-best gymnast behind superstar Simone Biles. But when Biles abruptly bowed out of the team and all-around competition earlier this week because of mental health concerns, Lee was pushed into the bright spotlight.
But Lee had experience in the harsh, sometimes unforgiving international limelight. She was a member of the American’s gold-medal winning team at the 2019 World Championships. It was nice preparation for the Tokyo Olympics.
Lee Dazzled Under Pressure at Tokyo Olympics
During Thursday’s competition, Lee dazzled under immense pressure. She took over the lead after the third apparatus — the balance beam. And then she clinched with her performance on the floor exercise.
Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade won the silver medal. She became the first woman from her country to win a gymnastics medal. Andrade could’ve won the gold if she scored a 13.8 or higher on the floor. Instead, she stepped out of bounds on two tumbling passes, which knocked down her score.
Lee scored 57.433 points. Andrade followed with 57.298.
Angelina Melnikova, representing the Russian Olympic Committee, won the bronze. She and her teammates won the gold medal in the team competition.
The Tokyo Olympics conducted the all-around at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre. There were few fans in the stands. But Lee had a cheering section. They were her teammates who didn’t qualify for the all-around. And Simone Biles was there with them.
Biles was the top qualifier for the all-around. But coming into the final session of the team competition, Biles suddenly took herself out of the event. She performed one vault and decided that she was suffering from too much anxiety to continue. She didn’t know where she was in the air as she attempted her very difficult tricks.
With Biles out of the Tokyo Olympics all-around, American Jade Carey got the second spot for the American team. Carey finished eighth overall. Her floor exercise score of 13.966 was the third highest of the day.
Thursday’s win also places the USA in pristine gymnastics air. The all-around title gives the USA a sixth crown, which tied the Soviet Union, which won six between 1952 to 1988.