The headlines before the Tokyo Olympics were filled with predictions about Simone Biles — how many medals, how GOAT is the GOAT, how many moves could be named for a single human? But quickly, with Biles’s departure from the floor after her disastrous vault at the start of the team competition on Tuesday, the headlines changed. They rightfully started talking about the need to prioritize the mental health of athletes and touted the resilience of the remaining members of the US women’s team, who pulled together to win a silver medal for their team.
With Biles out of the team competition and then the all-around (in which she won gold in Rio in 2016), many eyes turned to Suni Lee.
Those eyes should have been on her the entire time.
With her gritty, soaring performance on Wednesday, Lee has done more than keep the US women’s winning streak in the all-around intact (5 in a row, 6 overall). She held off Brazilian wonder Rebeca Andrade, who stepped out of bounds twice on floor exercises during the final rotation and the Russian Olympic Committee’s (ROC) Angelina Melnikova (whose performance in the team competition sealed the gold for ROC).
She has done more than joined the likes of Mary Lou Retton in 1984, Carly Patterson in 2004, Nastia Liukin in 2008, Gabby Douglas in 2012, and, yes, teammate Simone Biles in 2016. She has stepped up in circumstances that no one could have fathomed just a week ago.
Now, Lee has come out of the shadow of the GOAT, and the first Hmong American Olympic gymnast is now the first Hmong American Olympic gold medalist. It is a moment she earned, from her towering bars routine to her rock-solid tumbling passes on the floor.
It is Suni Lee’s time to shine. How lucky we are to bear witness to it all.