American gymnast Sunisa Lee stepped into the void left by Simone Biles and won a gold medal Thursday in the women’s all-around competition of the Tokyo Olympics.
Lee ensured that despite Biles’ decision to drop out of the competition “to focus on her mental health,” the United States would bring home its fifth straight all-around gymnastics gold, according to USA Today.
The 18-year-old from St. Paul, Minnesota, won with an overall score of 57.433.
Suni Lee just did that… She’s now the All-Around champion!!! pic.twitter.com/L4pZ22sUvz
— Tyler Roney (@TylerJRoney) July 29, 2021
Rebeca Andrade of Brazil placed second with a score of 57.298, and Angelina Melnikova of Russia won the bronze with a score of 57.199, according to ESPN.
Jade Carey, who was added to the competition after Biles withdrew, finished eighth, with a score of 54.199 points.
The spotlight of the Olympics became simply one more challenge for Lee to overcome.
By making it to Tokyo, she had already made history as the first Hmong-American to compete for the United States in the Olympics, according to NBC News.
In 2019, her father suffered paralysis from the waist down after an accident. Last year, she lost an aunt and uncle to COVID-19.
Lee also had to overcome to lingering effects of an ankle injury suffered last year.
SUNI LEE WINS GOLD IN THE ALL-AROUND 🥇
An American woman has won every Olympic all-around since 2004! pic.twitter.com/oOcIeBvsRU
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 29, 2021
Crowd reacts as Suni Lee appear to win the all around pic.twitter.com/5dudS51PPt
— Peter Cox (@peterncox) July 29, 2021
In a profile on Lee in The New York Times, former Olympic medalist Nastia Liukin, a former Olympian and NBC analyst, heaped praise on Lee’s routine.
“It’s just about as close to perfection as I think anyone can get,” she said. “If one little thing goes wrong, the whole routine could essentially fall apart.”
Lee had been drafted Tuesday when Biles pulled out of a team competition. The top U.S. gymnast said the “mental is not there, so I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself.”
Lee did it. “I went out on that floor, and I just chucked every single thing,”she said, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “When I had to go out there and do it, I just needed to do what I do.”
The Hmong are an ethnic group relocated from Southeast Asia after the Vietnam War.
“The Hmong here are very proud to be American,” said Sia Lo, a St. Paul attorney, according to NPR. “We hope all of America is proud of Suni. What she’s achieved showcases what is possible here in the United States.”
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