Rounding Off: Suni Lee's post-Tokyo whirlwind

Plus, Murakami Mai isn't done helping Japan make history and a look back at the Spanish women on floor from Sydney 2000.

By Scott Bregman
Picture by Theo Wargo/GETTYIMAGES

Tokyo 2020 Olympic women’s artistic gymnastics all-around gold medallist Suni Lee of the United States admits her success this summer still quite doesn’t seem real.

"I definitely don't see myself as an Olympic gold medallist. It's crazy to think that. I still have a hard time letting it sink in,” Lee said in an interview with Popsugar.

Though expectations heading into the Games for Lee were high – she had just beaten Simone Biles’ all-around score on one of the two days of the U.S. trials – all-around gold didn’t seem like a possibility until Biles’ withdrawal to focus on mental health.

That opportunity changed everything and quickly.

"Nobody expected me to win the gold medal,” Lee admits, “so when I did, my life turned overnight.”

Now, the 18-year-old finds herself a celebrity both around Los Angeles as she competes on the popular television show ‘Dancing with the Stars’, and also on campus at the Auburn University.

While Lee is among six couples still competing, she’s looking forward to a more “normal” college experience once the show wraps.

"I lost my whole childhood to gymnastics. Since I sacrificed all of that, I wanted to have the college experience and get what I couldn't have [in high school] . . . I wanted to be treated normal,” said Lee.

In the same interview Lee also revealed an incident that recently happened to her in Los Angeles.

The 18-year-old said she was verbally abused and pepper sprayed while waiting for a cab ride.

"I was so mad, but there was nothing I could do or control because they skirted off," she said.

Murakami Mai to coach at Nippon Sport Science University

Japan’s most successful female gymnast isn’t done helping her nation make history.

"I'm happy to be retiring in the best manner possible. I'm happy to have rewritten the record," said Murakami Mai, who announced her retirement following the 2021 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, according to a report by Kyodo News. "Japanese women need to get stronger. (As a coach) I want to make every contribution to get many gymnasts to taste the joy of winning a medal."

After missing the 2019 worlds due to injury and working through the year-long delay of the Tokyo Games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Murakami had an incredibly successful 2021 campaign.

At the Olympics, she finished a historic fifth place in the all-around and won the bronze medal on the floor exercise. Two months later, she added a second world floor title to her resume along with a bronze medal on the balance beam.

"I wouldn't be living each day with motivation had it not been for gymnastics," Murakami said. "(Gymnastics) was a sport that gave me a dream.”

From the vault…

This week, we take a look back at the Spanish women’s team on floor exercise during the team final at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Esther Moya led the team in the rotation, earning a score of 9.662 to help lift the nation to a historic fourth-place finish.

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