Tokyo Olympics: Lee inspired by Biles as she claims gymnastics gold

By Sports Desk July 29, 2021

Sunisa Lee was inspired by Simone Biles' presence as she claimed gold in the women's all-around gymnastics at the Tokyo Olympics.

Lee is the first Hmong American to compete for the United States at the Olympics and, in Biles' absence, stepped up to deliver the nation's fifth successive gold in the event.

The 18-year-old joins Carly Patterson (2004), Nastia Liukin (2008), Gabby Douglas (2012) and Biles (2016) on that list.

Biles, a four-time gold medallist at the Rio Games, competed in only one event in Tuesday's team competition at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre, registering the lowest score of the first rotation before she then left the floor with a trainer.

She then withdrew from the event, revealing she had chosen to prioritise her mental health and stating she had been "fighting demons".

Biles, 24, subsequently chose not to compete in Thursday's final, but was on hand to support her team from the sidelines.

"It sucks that I couldn’t have Simone on the floor with me, but just to have her in the arena was very helpful because she is an inspiration to me and someone I look up to," said a jubilant Lee.

Biles' absence did present its own challenges, however. 

"I just had to switch gears because we came in competing for second place. So when the opportunity was there I knew I had to do what I normally do because this whole season I was second to her [Biles]." Lee added.

"I felt there was a lot of pressure on me because I have been second to her the whole season, so I knew that people were kind of counting on me to either get second or win a gold medal.

"I tried not to focus on that because I knew I would get too nervous, and I probably would have gotten in my head."

Lee also hailed the advice she received from the more experienced members of her team, continuing: "They told me to go out there and not worry about anything else. I was starting to put a little too much pressure on myself. Knowing that Simone was gone, I was starting to put that pressure on myself that I had to come back with a medal.

"I tried not to think about it and just focus on myself. That is what they told me to do, to just do what I normally do and that is when I compete the best."

Rebeca Andrade of Brazil claimed silver, and she paid tribute to Biles' decision to withdraw to focus on her own wellbeing.

"It was different for me because Simone is incredible," she said.

"Knowing why she left the competition was very difficult. People need to understand we are not robots. We are human beings, and we have feelings like anyone else. That is the same in the competition.

"We know what it feels like to feel the pressure, but I tried to keep my cool. I tried to put into practice everything that I learned with my psychologist, and it worked. I did what I could and I could not be happier. I wish the best to everyone."

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