Suni Lee said she nearly threw up from nerves as she waited to compete Thursday in the women’s all-around gymnastics competition finals at the Tokyo Olympics. But she was able to calm down by telling herself something.
Though you likely wouldn’t have known that she was nervous watching her perform. The 18-year-old nailed her final day of competition Thursday to bring home a gold medal. She told Hoda Kotb of the TODAY show that to steady her nerves by reminding herself she’d prepared for this moment.
“My normal is good enough, so I don’t need to do anything more or anything less. I just have to do what I normally do,” she told herself before competing on the balance beam.
Lee stepped up for Team USA after Simone Biles, likely the greatest gymnastic of all time, withdrew from the Olympics to focus on her mental health. Though many experts expected the 18-year-old Lee to perform well and likely medal in Tokyo.
Lee dedicated the medal to her parents, especially her father, whom she said had sacrificed so much to help her reach the Olympics podium.
“This has been our dream forever,” she told Kotb. “I wish he was here. He always told me if I win the gold medal he would come out on the ground and do a backflip. It’s sad that he can’t be here, but this is our dream, and this is our medal.”
Her dad, John Lee, wasn’t able to attend the Tokyo Olympics because spectators were barred from arenas to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. He watched his daughter prove her mettle from a hotel ballroom with several other friends and family.
Suni Lee: ‘It Doesn’t Feel Like Real Life’
John Lee has supported his daughter’s love of gymnastics since she was a child, Suni Lee said. He even built her a balance beam in their home in Minnesota so she could practice whenever she wanted.
John told the TODAY show he couldn’t wait to see Suni when she returns from Tokyo.
“I’m going to tell her I’m so proud of her,” he said. “I want to tell her team that no matter what, you all support her, and I want to tell Simone (Biles) that she truly is the GOAT because she let my baby girl bring the gold medal.”
Suni Lee is the fifth consecutive American gymnast to win the gold medal in the Olympics all-around competition. She topped Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade, who is the first Brazilian woman to medal in gymnastics.
“This is a crazy experience,” she told Hoda. “Like it doesn’t even feel like real life. I’m going to be like, ‘Oh my gosh am I an Olympic gold medalist?! No!”