After finishing her sophomore yr on the Auburn College gymnastics staff, Suni Lee will make the transition again to elite gymnastics—and embark on a bid to signify Group USA as soon as once more on the 2024 Olympic Video games in Paris.
Lee, who grew to become the primary Asian American to win all-around gymnastics gold on the 2020 Tokyo Video games, introduced her determination to go away collegiate gymnastics and pursue Olympic glory with a video posted on her Instagram account on November 15.
“I’ve my sights set on Paris in 2024, and I do know what I’ve to do to get there,” Lee mentioned within the video. “I stay up for rolling up my sleeves and placing within the work.”
Lee joined the Division I Auburn gymnastics staff within the fall of 2021, simply weeks after competing on the Tokyo Video games, the place she earned a staff silver medal and particular person bronze on the uneven bars along with her all-around gold. As a freshman at Auburn, she had essentially the most embellished yr in this system’s historical past, profitable an NCAA championship in beam and incomes runner-up within the all-around, in addition to eight all-American honors.
Lee’s sophomore (and closing) season at Auburn will start in December with their annual preview meet. Season tickets to look at her carry out in individual have already offered out—for the second yr straight.
“Should you love Auburn, Auburn will love you,” Lee instructed SELF earlier within the fall. “They’re completely superb.”
Competing for Auburn was a dream of hers, as Lee defined in her video, however the “indescribable emotion” of competing on the world’s largest stage was one thing she wasn’t fairly able to stroll away from. “I don’t need it to be simply as soon as in a lifetime,” she mentioned.
If she does make a repeat, it’ll be a historic one. The trail of Olympics to school adopted by again to Olympics has by no means been carried out earlier than for a feminine US gymnast, in line with NBC Sports activities. (MyKayla Skinner got here shut as an alternate for the 2016 Video games in Rio de Janeiro, adopted by competing for the College of Utah, after which making the Tokyo staff.)
Beforehand, competing on the collegiate stage meant a retirement from the elite world. Up till round 2000 or so, faculty gymnastics “didn’t have that pleasure and that attract” of elite competitors, Betty Okino, a 1992 Olympian, instructed The Washington Publish. In actual fact, in line with the outlet, just one athlete from every of the final two Olympic groups previous to Tokyo competed within the NCAA.
Over the past twenty years, although, there’s been a change: Main TV networks have begun broadcasting collegiate meets, faculties have began promoting out their venues, and spellbinding routines by faculty gymnasts like Nia Dennis and Katelyn Ohashi have gone viral, bringing faculty gymnastics to the mainstream public.
One other massive purpose that now makes faculty gymnastics extra interesting to those that have competed for Group USA? Beforehand, the NCAA had strict guidelines relating to amateurism—athletes couldn’t revenue off their identify, picture, or likeness (NIL) and nonetheless compete for the faculties. That meant if an athlete soared to Olympic fame as a teen, they wouldn’t have the ability to do issues like make commercials or settle for endorsements whereas the iron was nonetheless scorching, since it could void their faculty eligibility. However starting in July of 2021, the NCAA amended its coverage and suspended the prior guidelines, permitting athletes to learn from their very own NIL.
All of those adjustments within the collegiate gymnastics world means the Paris Video games could be a contest like no different. In line with ESPN, two different members of the 2020 Tokyo staff, Jordan Chiles and Jade Carey, have already been competing concurrently on the collegiate and elite ranges—that means there are a number of potentialities for an Olympic-collegiate-Olympic trajectory for Paris.
And now, Lee is throwing her identify into that blend.
“I’ve at all times had this tiny voice behind my thoughts telling me I wasn’t carried out with elite and wished to offer it one other shot,” Lee instructed ESPN. “As you close to the top of an Olympic cycle and get nearer to the Video games themselves, coaching ramps up to a degree the place it’s utterly a full-time job…. I do know that to have the most effective shot to signify my nation once more, I have to dedicate that point, and this determination permits me to try this.”