The U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team is incredible. They recently celebrated a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics, so it’s no surprise that, during the women’s gymnastics all-around, gymnast Sunisa Lee took home the gold medal. She’s only 18 years old; I couldn’t even do a split at 18 (and I still can’t, but that’s beside the point).
The U.S. team is constantly made up of powerful women, both on and off the mat. Of recent note, McKayla Maroney, of the 2012 Olympic team, first tried to blow the whistle on Larry Nassar in 2011. GOAT Simone Biles, of the 2016 and 2020 Olympic teams, recently reignited conversations on mental health when she withdrew from several events in Tokyo to protect herself. She remained close to cheer on the rest of her team, including newcomer Lee – who’s had quite the journey herself.
It hasn’t been easy, with quite a few horrifying events preceding Lee’s Olympic debut. Two days before she competed in the 2019 Kansas City National Championships, her father fell off of a ladder, which paralyzed him from the waist down. Despite being such a difficult time for her family, it didn’t stop them from pushing her towards her dreams; her father encouraged her to go through with the competition. She came in second in the all-around and first in the uneven bars. One month later, she was named to the U.S. team for the world championships, where they took home gold, along with multiple individual placements.
The next year, Lee broke her foot, which further delayed her from practicing just a week after her gym reopened from its coronavirus shutdown. With this long period of rest, she was nervous about losing her progress, but looking at the confident performances from her now you’d never know it. Just look at her uneven bars routine (again and again and again)!
During the same summer that Lee was suffering from a broken foot, her aunt contracted COVID-19 and passed away. Heartbreakingly, Lee had to say goodbye to her over Zoom, and only two weeks later her uncle passed away after a heart attack.
Through all of these tragic events, Lee persevered. She won a bronze, silver, and gold medal in Tokyo, showing everyone looking up to her that anything is possible if you have a goal in mind. Her success goes to show that despite life’s struggles, you can always work hard to achieve what you want. Although the athletes in the Olympics are among the best, it’s so important to note that they’re still human beings. That might be an obvious statement, but I think it’s something that’s often forgotten. Lee has gone through a lot more than many of us can even begin to imagine in the past couple of years, but she still managed to rise to the top – something we can all stand to learn from.