Suni Lee has what it takes to make it to the top.
The 18-year-old finished first in the all-around competition during Day 2 of the U.S. Olympic Trials in June and has remained cool under pressure in Tokyo, stepping up in the team final to replace Simone Biles on floor exercise and hitting all of her competitive routines thus far. With the most difficult uneven bars routine in the world and two hit balance beam sets under incredibly nerve-racking conditions under her belt, Lee is in prime position to contend for her first Olympic gold in the individual all-around, particularly now that reigning champion Biles has withdrawn from the competition slated for Thursday night.
Lee's scores in the qualification round placed her in third behind Biles and Brazil's Rebeca Andrade. All scores reset in finals, meaning that Lee has a fresh start on all events. She did not perform the most difficult version of her bar routine in qualifications but did so in team finals which resulted in a score that was two tenths higher. Her score on floor was also two tenths better in team finals than qualifications, indicating her all-around total has room to improve in the final.
As the first Hmong American to compete in the Olympics, Lee has already made history, and the story of her journey to Tokyo is one of strength and perseverance. In 2019, her father was in an accident that resulted in him becoming paralyzed from the chest down, and Lee lost an aunt and uncle to COVID-19 last year. She battled through an ankle injury in the competitions leading up to the 2020 Games and was able to add a double layout tumbling pass back into her floor routine just in time for Tokyo. If she wins the all-around competition, she will carry on an American streak that stretches back to Carly Patterson's gold medal at the 2004 Games.
Lee already helped Team USA to a silver medal and has more chances at individual titles in the bars and beam event finals that will take place next week. In the all-around final, her toughest competition will be Andrade and Russian Angelina Melnikova, who clinched the gold for the Russian Olympic Committee with a hit floor routine in the team final. American Jade Carey finished ninth in the all-around during qualifications but will join Lee in the final due to Biles' withdrawal.