Team USA's Sunisa Lee Wins Gold In The Women's Gymnastics All-Around Final : Live Updates: The Tokyo Olympics This competition was initially defined by who wasn't competing. U.S. star Simone Biles, the greatest gymnast of all time and the heavy favorite to win, pulled out to take care of her mental health.

Sunisa Lee Claims Olympic Gold And Shows U.S. Gymnastics Has More Than 1 Superstar

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American gymnast Sunisa Lee is now the Olympic gold medal winner in the all-around gymnastics final. As NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports from Tokyo, she won the individual competition, the same one Lee's teammate, Simone Biles, withdrew from citing mental health concerns.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Simone Biles was in the stands of Tokyo's Ariake Gymnastics Centre cheering on Sunisa Lee as she did a difficult routine on the uneven bars and when she was on the balance beam executing what's called a wolf turn, crouching with one leg straight out and turning. Biles cheered when Lee made a fine landing off the vault then finished up with a floor routine filled with difficult flips and jumps.


SUNISA LEE: It just is so surreal, and I haven't even let it sink in yet. Like, it doesn't even feel like real life (laughter).

DEL BARCO: After she got her gold medal, Lee told reporters she'd been super nervous, but Biles gave her a pep talk.


LEE: I was starting to put a little bit too much pressure on myself. Knowing that Simone was gone, I feel like people kind of put that pressure on me that I had to come back with a medal. So I try not to think about it. And that's what they told me to do, to just focus on myself and do what I normally do because that's when I compete the best.

DEL BARCO: Lee is 18 years old, from St. Paul, Minn., the first Hmong American to make a U.S. Olympic team. She also just came off a difficult time personally. Two years ago, her father was paralyzed after he fell from a tree. Then, her aunt and uncle died of the coronavirus. The pandemic lockdown kept her from working out at her gym. And when she returned, she badly injured her ankle.


LEE: Yeah, the past two years have been absolutely crazy with COVID and just my family and everything else. This medal definitely means a lot to me because there was a point in time where I wanted to quit. And I just didn't think I would ever get here, including injuries and stuff. So there are definitely a lot of emotions, but I'm super proud of myself for sticking with it and believing in myself.

DEL BARCO: Lee is now the fifth American in a row to win an Olympic gold medal in the individual all-around competition. She follows Biles, Gabby Douglas and their predecessors starting in 2004. Brazilian silver-medalist Rebeca Andrade is the first woman to earn a medal in women's artistic gymnastics for her country. Angelina Melnikova, from the Russian team, took the bronze. Next week, Suni Lee and the other medalists plan to compete in the finals of the individual gymnastics events. Simone Biles qualified for those too, but she hasn't yet said if she'll compete.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News, Tokyo.

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