Lee became a household name during the Tokyo Olympics, where she won a bronze, silver and gold medal while competing with Team USA.
AUBURN, Ala. — Olympic gold medalist Suni Lee is charting a new course for her gymnastics career.
In a video posted to social media on Tuesday, Lee, who won three medals with Team USA at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, announced that this will be her last season competing with Auburn University gymnastics. Lee said she’s returning to elite gymnastics to focus on training for the upcoming 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
“As an athlete that has competed at that highest level on the world’s biggest stage, I have been fortunate enough to experience the once-in-a-lifetime feeling, and the indescribable emotion when a gold medal is draped around your neck. But I don’t want it to be just once in a lifetime,” Lee said.
“To every little girl whose circumstances have dictated your future but you pushed beyond them, I see you. I did it and you can do it too. Because really, nothing is impossible,” Lee, 19, said.
“It’s a big decision,” said Jess Graba, owner of Midwest Gymnastics. Graba has been coaching Lee since she was six years old. “I feel like that’s the job of the coach is to help guide the athlete and if that’s what she wants to do then we’re in for another couple of years.”
Graba, whose twin brother Jeff Graba is the head coach at Auburn, said they’ll work together as Lee enters this next phase of her career.
“My brother will help at Auburn. He and his coaching staff are really good at cooperating with us, and with Suni, so that they’ll tweak her routine so that she’s kind of training there too. So her routines won’t be traditional NCAA routines; they’ll be a little upgraded and maybe giving her some chances to try some new skills and new things which will help,” Graba said.
Lee started at Auburn University in Aug. 2021 after returning from Tokyo, where she helped take the squad to the team finals at the NCAA women’s gymnastics championships in April. Auburn would finish fourth in the team final.
“To the Auburn family, my teammates, coaches, staff and supporters, thank you,” she added. “This special place will always be a part of me and my journey. And I will always be an Auburn Tiger. War Eagle!”
Lee, a native of St. Paul, made history at the 2020 games as the first Hmong-American Olympian.
The then-18-year-old gymnast became a household name during the Tokyo Olympics, winning gold in the all-around individual final, silver in the women’s team final, and bronze in the individual uneven bars.
Not long after her Olympic debut, Lee was named one of TIME’s Most Influential People of 2021, alongside a notable list of climate leaders, advocates, political leaders, singers and songwriters, CEOs and more.
Lee’s other major accolades include being awarded Sports Illustrated’s 2021 Female Athlete of the Year and the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Individual Sportswoman of the Year for 2022.