Sunisa Lee Clinches All-Around Gymnastics Gold Then Tearfully Celebrates with Team: 'We're So Proud,' Dad Says
Sunisa Lee just flipped and tumbled her way to Olympic success.
Team USA gymnasts Lee and Jade Carey finished the women's gymnastics individual all-around in first and eighth place, respectively on Thursday at the Ariake Gymnastics Center.
Lee ended the competition with 57.433, just ahead of silver medalist Rebeca Andrade of Brazil's 57.298, and the Russian Olympic Committee's Angelina Melnikova, who finished with 57.199.
After her win, Lee — who finished on floor — beamed and wiped away tears of joy as she hugged Carey and her coaches. Heading into the Games, she was the first Hmong American Olympic gymnast and is now the first Hmong American Olympic gold medalist.
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With Lee's win, the U.S. has now also won five straight women's all-around golds, starting with Carly Patterson in 2004.
Lee, an 18-year-old from Minnesota, earned her spot in the individual all-around competition after her standout performance during the qualifiers, which she followed up in the team final with a score of 15.400 on the uneven bars, performing a routine with the highest difficulty score in the world.
Earlier this year, Lee told PEOPLE that being an Olympian means "the world for me," adding "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."
Carey had placed in ninth during the qualifiers last week, but after fellow Team USA member Simone Biles dropped out of the individual event — for which only two athletes from each country were permitted to participate — she moved into the empty spot.
The 21-year-old was not a member of the team, instead selected for the Tokyo Games as an individual due to strong performances at four World Cup competitions starting in 2018.
In Tokyo, countries were able to compete with four team members and two individual spots — a change from the five team spots of years past.
The four U.S. gymnastics team members — Lee, Biles, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum — earned a silver medal in the team all-around. Biles dropped out of the event after a shaky vault landing, citing her mental health, but later praised her teammates for their second-place victory.
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She was in the stands during Thursday's competition, cheering her teammates throughout.
"I'm SO proud of these girls right here. You girls are incredibly brave & talented! I'll forever be inspired by your determination to not give up and to fight through adversity! They stepped up when I couldn't," Biles wrote on social media this week. "Thanks for being there for me and having my back! Forever love y'all."
To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.