Unbelievable Photos of Gymnast Sunisa Lee's Gold Medal-Winning Day for Team USA

Take a look at incredible images of the Olympian, leading up to winning gold at the women's gymnastics individual all-around event on July 29

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Suni Lee
Sunisa Lee.

At the start of the Tokyo Olympic Games, Lee became the first Hmong American Olympic gymnast and now, she's the first Hmong American Olympic gold medalist.

The 18-year-old placed first at the women's gymnastics individual all-around event on Thursday, making Team USA the proud winner of five straight women's all-around golds, starting with Carly Patterson in 2004.

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Suni Lee
Jamie Squire/Getty

The gold medalist gave a breathtaking performance on the balance beam during day six of the Games at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre.

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Suni Lee
Jamie Squire/Getty

Ahead of her Olympic achievement, Lee told PEOPLE that being an Olympian means "the world for me," and that "I want to do it for my family and coaches obviously, but I also want to do it for myself. I've just been through so much."

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Suni Lee
Sunisa Lee. Jamie Squire/Getty

She also knows that her being at the Games "means a lot to the Hmong community ... and to just be an inspiration to other Hmong people [means] a lot to me too."

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Suni Lee
Jamie Squire/Getty

Suni is the pride of her home state of Minnesota and of her father John, who told Today's Craig Melvin, "It's unreal, you know? There's only four spots available [on the women's gymnastics tema] and so she made it and that's pretty tough."

John also shared that when he couldn't afford to buy a balance beam for Suni, he built one in their backyard to help her train.

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Suni Lee
Jamie Squire/Getty

"I talk to her, I motivate her," John told Melvin, adding, "But the real secret is: I think it's her. I think she's pretty natural."

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Suni Lee
Jamie Squire/Getty

The Olympian landed her spot in the individual all-around competition after her standout performance during the qualifiers, performing an unbelievable routine on the uneven bars that earned her the highest difficulty score in the world.

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Suni Lee
Jamie Squire/Getty

Not having her family at the Games due to COVID-19 protocols was difficult for Lee.

"It's been all of our dreams and for them to not even be able to go to the Olympics and watch is something that is so heartbreaking. But I think they're going to have a little watch party," Lee told PEOPLE of her loved ones in St. Paul and across the U.S.

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Suni Lee
Jamie Squire/Getty

As for the year-long postponement of the Games, Lee told PEOPLE, "Now looking back, I think it's helped me a lot mentally and physically."

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Suni Lee
Jamie Squire/Getty

"Mentally it's helped me because I had to take that little break from gymnastics, which is obviously hard, but it was something that needed to be done," she said. "Right now, mentally it's helped because it makes me want this even more."

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Suni Lee
Jamie Squire/Getty

While chatting with reporters on Thursday, Lee also opened up about previous times in her life when she considered quitting gymnastics altogether.

"The waiting game was something that I hated so much ... but when I saw that my score went on top, it was so emotional. I didn't think I'd ever be here," she said. "There was a point where I wanted to quit, so to even say that I'm an Olympic gold medalist and be here is just so crazy."

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Suni Lee
Jamie Squire/Getty

When asked what made her consider quitting the sport, Lee shared that the pandemic played a large role.

"Quarantine, for sure, and then when I broke my foot [were times I thought of quitting], because it wasn't getting any better and it just felt like I wasn't ever going to be able to make it to the Olympics," she said.

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Suni Lee
Jamie Squire/Getty

"This is our dream," Lee said of her father John. "It sucks that he couldn't be here."

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Suni Lee
Sunisa Lee.

Lee ended up celebrating her gold medal win with her family virtually. "Before the medal ceremony I FaceTimed them and I talked to them. We were all just crying on the phone," she said. "It was a very surreal moment."

"My parents are just the most amazing people in my life, I love them so much," she added.

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Suni Lee
Jamie Squire/Getty

Speaking to Today after his daughter's big win, John said, "we're so proud of her."

"I'm going to tell her I'm so proud of her," he added. "I want to tell her team that no matter what, you all support her and I want to tell Simone [Biles] that she truly is the GOAT because she let my baby girl bring the gold medal."

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Suni Lee
Sunisa Lee.

Upon learning that she had won gold, Lee hugged her coach Jess Graba, who has been her coach since elementary school.

"She's tough as nails," Graba told the Washington Post. "People don't see that. They don't know how hurt she is. They don't know how stressed out she is. They don't know how nervous she is."

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Sunisa Lee
Sunisa Lee. Jamie Squire/Getty

Speaking with reporters after the event, Lee said that she could not believe what she had achieved.

"Coming into this competition, I didn't even think that I could be competing for a gold medal," she said. "I was coming to compete for a silver medal. To be here, it's crazy."

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Angelina Melnikova, Sunisa Lee, Rebeca Andrade
From left to right: Bronze medalist Angelina Melnikova of Team ROC, gold medalist Sunisa Lee of Team United States and silver medalist Rebeca Andrade of Team Brazil. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Bronze medalist Angelina Melnikova of Team ROC, Lee and silver medalist Rebeca Andrade of Team Brazil posed proudly with their medals after the women's all-around final on day six of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

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