St. Paul's Sunisa Lee steps up for Team USA after Simone Biles' withdrawal

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Jul. 27—St. Paul gymnast Sunisa Lee approached the uneven bars Tuesday in Tokyo knowing she needed the performance of a lifetime.

Team USA was on the ropes after star Simone Biles withdrew from the team competition. If that wasn't a big enough blow, the U.S. also trailed the Russian Olympic Committee team by more than a point in the overall standings.

That put all the pressure on Lee as she prepared for her signature event. She had to be as close to perfect as possible if Team USA was going to have any chance at a gold medal.

And the 18-year-old showed she was up to the challenge.

Not only did Lee put on an otherworldly performance on uneven bars, she netted a huge score of 15.400 to put the U.S. right back in the team competition. She hugged her coach Jess Graba seconds after sticking the landing on her dismount.

In the end, though, the Russian Olympic Committee pulled away in the final rotation, finishing with a final score of 169.528 to claim the gold medal. It marked the first time since 2008 that the U.S. team did not win the gold medal at the Olympics. It settled for the silver medal with a final score of 166.096. Great Britain won bronze with a final score of 164.096.

Though the story of the day was Biles withdrawing from the team competition, Lee's clutch performance shouldn't be overlooked. Aside from nailing her routine on the uneven bars, she scored a 14.133 on the balance beam and a 13.666 on the floor. She carries a lot of momentum heading into the the finals of the all-around competition on Thursday.

It's unclear if Biles will compete on Thursday. She talked to reporters after the team competition and said she would be taking things day by day. She withdrew on Tuesday following her attempt on vault, a stunning decision that opened the door for the Russian Olympic Committee team to surge to the gold medal.

"I didn't want to go into any of the other events second-guessing myself," Biles said. "So, I thought it would be better if I took a step back and let these girls go out there and do their job."

It was an uncharacteristic performance from Biles on the vault. While she was scheduled to do an Amanar vault that requires a roundoff back handspring onto the table followed by 2 1/2 twists, Biles did just 1 1/2 twists with a big leap forward after landing. She sat down and talked to U.S. team doctor Marcia Faustin, then headed to the back while her teammates moved on to uneven bars without her.

Asked about Biles after the team competition, Lee responded, "To see her kind of go out like that is very sad because this Olympic Games, I feel like, is kind of hers."

The Associated Process contributed to this report

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