Sunisa Lee Takes Gold in Women’s Gymnastics Final
TOKYO (AP) — Sunisa Lee wanted to quit during quarantine.
It all had become too much. The lingering pain from a broken foot. The deaths of two family members from COVID-19. Her father’s slow recovery from an accident that left him paralyzed.
The urge eventually passed. It always does. Still, less than two months ago the 18-year-old gymnast hobbled around the podium at the U.S. championships, getting by more on grit than anything else.
Tokyo seemed far away. The top of the Olympic podium, even further.
Then suddenly, there she was on Thursday night as a tinny version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” echoed across Ariake Gymnastics Centre. Gold medal around her neck. A watch party back home among the Hmong-American community in her native Minnesota raging. A victory she never envisioned not yet sinking in.
“It’s crazy,” Lee said after winning the Olympic all-around title following a tight duel with Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade. “It doesn’t seem like real life.”
Even though the pain in Lee’s foot eased — funny how it seemed to get better the more she trained — she arrived in Japan figuring her best shot was at a silver medal. Sure, she’d beaten good friend and reigning Olympic champion Simone Biles during the final day of the U.S. Olympic Trials last month, but that was an anomaly, right?
Then Biles opted out of the all-around competition to focus on her mental health following an eight-year run atop the sport.