US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident

US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident

(CNN)Suni Lee just accomplished what no one expected three days ago — not even herself.

“This is such a surreal moment. I just feel like I could have never been here ever. It doesn’t even feel like real life,” the 18-year-old said after winning the most coveted medal in gymnastics. Photos: Suni Lee wins gymnastics goldUS gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident Photos: Suni Lee wins gymnastics goldUS gymnast Sunisa “Suni” Lee competes on the balance beam during the individual all-around final on Thursday, July 29.Hide Caption 1 of 19US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident Photos: Suni Lee wins gymnastics goldLee is congratulated by teammate Jade Carey after winning the gold.Hide Caption 2 of 19US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident Photos: Suni Lee wins gymnastics goldLee takes a selfie with silver medalist Rebeca Andrade, center, and bronze medalist Angelina Melnikova. Andrade is the first Brazilian to ever medal in women’s gymnastics. Melnikova is Russian.Hide Caption 3 of 19US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident Photos: Suni Lee wins gymnastics goldLee started her day on the vault, where she put up the field’s fifth-best score.Hide Caption 4 of 19US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident Photos: Suni Lee wins gymnastics goldAn overhead shot of Lee on the uneven bars.Hide Caption 5 of 19US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident Photos: Suni Lee wins gymnastics goldLee celebrates after her performance on the uneven bars. Lee had the best score on that apparatus.Hide Caption 6 of 19US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident Photos: Suni Lee wins gymnastics goldLee soars in the air during the uneven bars.Hide Caption 7 of 19US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident Photos: Suni Lee wins gymnastics goldLee talks to her teammate Jade Carey during the competition. Carey finished in eighth place.Hide Caption 8 of 19US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident Photos: Suni Lee wins gymnastics goldLee performs on the balance beam during the third rotation. She put up the field’s second-best score on the beam.Hide Caption 9 of 19US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident Photos: Suni Lee wins gymnastics goldLee was in first place heading to the floor exercise on the final rotation.Hide Caption 10 of 19US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident Photos: Suni Lee wins gymnastics goldLee put up the field’s fifth-best score on the floor exercise, and it was enough to hold onto the lead.Hide Caption 11 of 19US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident Photos: Suni Lee wins gymnastics goldLee congratulates Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade after the floor exercise. Andrade had a chance to overtake Lee at the end, but she stepped out of bounds twice during her floor routine.Hide Caption 12 of 19US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident Photos: Suni Lee wins gymnastics goldLee twists in the air during her floor exercise routine.Hide Caption 13 of 19US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident Photos: Suni Lee wins gymnastics goldFrom left, US gymnasts Grace McCallum, Jordan Chiles, Simone Biles and MyKayla Skinner cheer for Lee after her gold-medal performance. Biles, the defending champion, withdrew from the event because of mental-health concerns. Correction: This caption has been updated to include Grace McCallum, who was previously misidentified by Getty Images.Hide Caption 14 of 19US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident Photos: Suni Lee wins gymnastics goldLee hugs Jade Carey after it was clear she had won gold.Hide Caption 15 of 19US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident Photos: Suni Lee wins gymnastics goldShyenne Lee, Lee’s sister, celebrates at a watch party in Oakdale, Minnesota.Hide Caption 16 of 19US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident Photos: Suni Lee wins gymnastics goldLee, 18, is the first Hmong-American to compete as an Olympic gymnast.Hide Caption 17 of 19US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident Photos: Suni Lee wins gymnastics goldLee’s parents, Yeev Thoj and John Lee, react while watching their daughter from Oakdale, Minnesota. In 2019, John Lee suffered an accident that left him paralyzed.Hide Caption 18 of 19US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident Photos: Suni Lee wins gymnastics goldLee poses with her gold medal on the podium.Hide Caption 19 of 19US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accidentUS gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accidentUS gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accidentUS gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accidentUS gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accidentUS gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accidentUS gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accidentUS gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accidentUS gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accidentUS gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accidentUS gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accidentUS gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accidentUS gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accidentUS gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accidentUS gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accidentUS gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accidentUS gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accidentUS gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accidentUS gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accidentLee is the first Hmong American to compete in the Olympics and is now the women’s gymnastics all-around champion.

    She also extended the United States’ 17-year winning streak in that competition — a dynasty that seemed in jeopardy this week when the previous Olympic all-around champ, Simone Biles, announced her withdrawal.

      But Lee’s historic performance — highlighted by the most difficult, astonishing uneven bars routine in the world — also capped an immensely difficult journey.Read MoreShe’s been marred by injuries, lost an aunt and uncle to Covid-19 and grappled with a horrific accident that left her father paralyzed.In 2019, her father John was helping a neighbor trim a tree when he fell and became paralyzed from the waist down.

      happy birthday dad! thank you for always being my number 1 supporter & my bestfriend. i love you so much, you are the reason i do it all. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/YlqEPdreJq

      — Sunisa lee (@sunisalee_) April 12, 2020

      The father of six had supported Lee’s gymnastics from the beginning — helping her perform tricks around the house, sometimes to the frustration of her mother. “I was always jumping on the bed or having my dad spot me while I was doing backflips and stuff like that,” Lee told TwinCities.com. “Finally, my mom got tired of it” — and that’s when she enrolled in gymnastics. US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident 'I didn't think I would ever be here,' Suni Lee says after winning Olympic goldBut the family had limited means, so John Lee built a balance beam in the backyard for Suni to practice on, the father told NBC.Just days after her father’s devastating accident, Suni Lee made her senior debut at the US gymnastics championships — competing in honor of her father. At age 16, she defied expectations — capturing the gold medal on uneven bars, the bronze on the floor exercise, and the silver in the all-around — just behind Biles.Now, at age 18, Lee joins an elite list of American Olympic all-around champions: Mary Lou Retton, Carly Patterson, Nastia Liukin, Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles.Back home in Minnesota, John Lee pumped his fist in the air as he watched his daughter reach the pinnacle of her sport.US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident John Lee, father of US gymnast Suni Lee, celebrates his daughter’s performance in the all-around.”There’s no words to describe how we feel right now,” John Lee told CNN affiliate WCCO.Suni’s mother, Yeev Thoj, said her daughter has made immense sacrifices to achieve her dream. US gymnast Suni Lee wins Olympic all-around after injuries, tragedies and a horrific accident Suni Lee earned her glory in the hardest of ways”All the injuries … she has a bad day, then she’ll come home so stressed about it and crying — that has finally paid off,” Thoj told WCCO. “She’s a gold medalist. And I’m super proud as a mom.” It’s an achievement that almost didn’t happen.

        “There was a point in time where I wanted to quit and I just didn’t think I would ever get here,” Lee said after her victory.”So there’s definitely a lot of emotions. But I’m super proud of myself for sticking with it and believing in myself because this medal would not be possible without my coaches, the medical team, my parents. It’s just so surreal, and I haven’t even let it sink in yet.”