Sunisa Lee reflects on recent success, while looking ahead to possible Olympic run

Sunisa Lee, 16, of St. Paul, poses for a portrait.
Sunisa Lee, 16, of St. Paul, poses for a portrait Wednesday at the Kling Public Media Center in St. Paul. Lee placed second in the U.S. women's gymnastics championship on Sunday behind the Olympic medalist Simone Biles.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

After earning a silver medal for her all around performance in the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Championship, Sunisa Lee is now in the running to make the National World Championship team and has a chance at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Lee took second over the weekend at the championship held in Kansas City, Mo. Although she was still recovering from a stress fracture, she also earned a gold medal for her performance on the uneven bars, and two bronze medals for her floor and beam routines.

For the St. Paul native, part of the reason why she works hard as a gymnast is for her community back home in Minnesota. Lee is the first Hmong-American gymnast to compete at her level. She’s received a lot of support from the Hmong community in Minnesota and wants to honor them by doing well.

“My community supports me a lot,” she said. “I don’t want to let them down so I go out and compete for them.”

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Four medals (a gold, silver and two bronze) are held in a woman's hands.
Sunisa Lee holds medals she won during the U.S. women's gymnastics championship on Sunday.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

But at 16, finding a balance between training for the Olympics and going to school has been a juggling act. She wakes up at 6:30 a.m., goes to school for half the day and then straight to practice until 8 p.m.

It isn’t always easy, she said, but her dreams keep her going. “That's what pushes me the most,” she said.

And, for her, being physically and mentally strong are equally as important when it comes to being a great gymnast.

“You just can't get distracted easily,” Lee said. “If you're having a bad day you just gotta keep going and you just can't be too hard on yourself.”

Use the audio player above to listen to the full interview with Sunisa Lee.