Sunisa “Suni” Lee, an 18-year-old gymnast on the US women’s team, won the gold medal in the all-around gymnastics event in Tokyo, in which athletes compete on all of the major skills of gymnastics – -balance beam, uneven bars, floor exercise, and vaults.
Lee, the child of immigrants from Laos, was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is the first Hmong-American athlete to represent the US at the Olympics.
US gymnasts have dominated this event historically, as athletes from the country have taken the gold in the event at the last five Olympic Games. Lee, with her win, joins the ranks of Simone Biles (2016), Gabby Douglas (2012), Nastia Liukin (2008), and Carley Patterson (2004).
Rebeca Andrade, representing Brazil, took the silver medal with a strong performance. This is the first Olympic medal in women’s Gymnastics for that country.
Andrade started the event with a bang — landing one of the most difficult moves on the vault, a Cheng. She stumbled a bit on the floor later on in the competition, which allowed Lee to take the gold.
Angelina Melnikova from the Russian Olympic Committee took the bronze medal in the event.
Spot for gold was open after Biles’ exit
Lee was a favorite for a medal in the all-around competition, as she is a well rounded gymnast with an incredible talent on the uneven bars. Her routine on the bars is widely considered one of the hardest in the world.
Before her US teammate Simone Biles, who is thought to be not only the best gymnast but also one of the best athletes in the world, unexpectedly dropped out of the event, Lee was in the running for silver or gold.
But after Biles removed herself from the competition citing mental health concerns, the field was wide open for the gold medal. Gymnasts from the Russian Olympic Committee, and Andrade from Brazil, were favored for the spot as well.
Suni Lee remained strong throughout the All-Around Gymnastics event in Tokyo
Lee started out the event strong on the vault, which is actually her weakest skill. She stuck a double-twisting Yurchenko, which was not the hardest move displayed during that round, but was enough to push her through to the next rotation in a comfortable position.
The gymnast then moved on to the uneven bars, where she is known to shine. She scored a massive 15.33 for her incredibly difficult routine, but was still behind Brazilian athlete Andrade, who performed well in the event.
After an impressive run on the balance bar, with a score of 13.833, Lee sat in the first spot going into the final skill, the floor exercise.
She began with an exceptionally difficult move, the double-twisting double back, and finished the event with a score of 13.7, which guaranteed the athlete at least a silver medal.
After Andrade stepped out of bounds twice during her routine, resulting in major penalties, Lee took the gold, and Andrade the silver medal at the event.
The winner of the event is considered the best all-around gymnast in the world. Next week, individual athletes will have a shot at winning gold again in individual events on each gymnastic apparatus.