Meet Sunisa 'Suni' Lee, the 18-year-old gymnast who kept Team USA's individual all-around gold-medal streak alive

Meet Sunisa 'Suni' Lee, the 18-year-old gymnast who kept Team USA's individual all-around gold-medal streak alive
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Sunisa Lee competes in the individual all-around at the Tokyo Olympics.
Sunisa Lee competes in the individual all-around at the Tokyo Olympics. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
  • Sunisa "Suni" Lee is the women's gymnastics individual all-around champion after winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday.

  • The 18-year-old Team USA superstar found a path to the top of the podium after women's gymnastics GOAT Simone Biles withdrew from the event due to mental health concerns.

  • Lee posted an impressive 14.6 on the vault, 15.3 on the uneven bars, 13.833 on the balance beam, and a 13.7 on the floor exercise to narrowly edge out Brazil's Rebeca Andrade for gold.

  • Here's everything you need to know about the newly-crowned individual all-around champion:

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Meet Sunisa Lee, your women's gymnastics individual all-around champion.

Sunisa Lee of Team USA celebrates after winning gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic s
Sunisa Lee of Team USA celebrates after winning gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic s Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Lee, who goes by "Suni," won gold in Thursday's women's gymnastics individual all-around final at the Tokyo Olympics.

Sunisa Lee.
Sunisa Lee. Gregory Bull/Associated Press

The 18-year-old's path to gold opened up considerably when Simone Biles, the American superstar and most decorated gymnast of all time, pulled out of the competition due to mental health concerns.

Simone Biles high fives Suni Lee.
Sergei Bobylev\TASS via Getty Images

Read more: Simone Biles realized she was mentally 'not there' at the Olympics, prompting her exit from the team all-around final

Biles' withdrawal put the United States' longtime dominance in the event into doubt, but Lee got the job done in spectacular fashion to become the fifth-straight American to win the all-around.

Sunisa Lee competes in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Sunisa Lee won gold for Team USA in all-around gymnastics Jamie Squire / Getty Images

She posted an impressive 14.6 on the vault to start off the day strong.

Sunisa Lee on vault.
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Then she moved to the uneven bars - by far her strongest apparatus - and excelled for a competition-best 15.3.

Suni Lee competes on uneven bars
USA's Sunisa Lee reacts after competing in the uneven bars event of the artistic gymnastics women's team final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo on July 27, 2021. LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images

Despite watching many of her competitors waver on the balance beam, Lee maintained her composure and earned a solid 13.833.

Suni Lee competes on balance beam
TOKYO, JAPAN JULY 27, 2021: Sunisa Lee of the United States performs her balance beam routine during the women's artistic gymnastics team all-around final at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre. Sergei Bobylev\TASS via Getty Images

And she rounded out the stellar showing with a floor exercise worthy of gold.

Sunisa Lee competes in the floor exercise.
Sunisa Lee competes in the floor exercise. Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

All in all, Lee posted a 57.433 to narrowly edge out Brazil's Rebeca Andrade for the top spot.

Suni Lee.
Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

With the win, Lee - already the first Hmong American to compete in the Olympic Games - became the community's first gold-medal winner.

Sunisa Lee of Team United States competes on balance beam during the Women's All-Around Final at the Tokyo Olympics
The US has won the event at every Olympics since 2004 Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Read more: Team USA's Sunisa Lee, the first Hmong American to compete in the Olympic Games, wins gold in all-around gymnastics

The St. Paul, Minnesota, native is the daughter of immigrants.

Suni Lee.
REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Both of her parents moved to the United States from Laos as children.

sunisa lee
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Source: ESPN

Her grandfather, Cher Yee Lee, fought alongside the US military in the Vietnam War before permanently moving to the States.

Suni Lee.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Source: ESPN

She began participating in gymnastics at 6 years old.

The women's gymnastics individual all-around medalists pose with their new hardware.
REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

And some 10 years later, she competed in her first senior USA Gymnastics National Championships while grappling with a familial tragedy.

Suni Lee.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Source: USA Today

Just days before the competition, Lee's father, John, fell off a ladder while helping a friend and injured his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed.

Suni Lee.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Source: USA Today

He still encouraged his daughter - now an Olympic gold medalist - to go out there and compete.

Suni Lee.
REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

He's always been his daughter's top supporter - even going so far as building her a balance beam for the backyard when the family couldn't afford to buy one.

A young Sunisa Lee flips on her backyard balance beam.

John still uses a wheelchair, but has slowly regained some of his mobility.

Suni's big win on Thursday gives the young star her second Olympic medal.

Suni Lee.
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

She led Team USA to silver in the team all-around, remaining unruffled - or at least appeared to in her performances - following Biles' unexpected departure.

Simone Biles and Team USA pose with their silver medals from the team all-around competition.
Simone Biles and Team USA pose with their silver medals from the team all-around competition. AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko

And she has a chance to win two more medals as she competes in the individual apparatus finals for the uneven bars and balance beam.

Sunisa Lee competes in the individual all-around at the Tokyo Olympics.
Sunisa Lee competes in the individual all-around at the Tokyo Olympics. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

After the Olympics, Lee is committed to attend Auburn University and compete for the school's gymnastics program.

Now learn about the rest of the Team USA squad:

The women who will represent USA Gymnastics at the Olympics: Jade Carey, Sunisa Lee, Jordan Chiles, Simone Biles, Mykayla Skinner, and Grace McCallum.
The women who will represent USA Gymnastics at the Olympics (from left): Jade Carey, Sunisa Lee, Jordan Chiles, Simone Biles, Mykayla Skinner, and Grace McCallum. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The US women's Olympic gymnastics squad is complete — here's who is on Team USA

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