Olympic champion Suni Lee back in form after debilitating kidney ailment

Olympic gymnastics all-around champion Suni Lee revealed that at the height of dealing with a kidney disease last year, she questioned whether a return to top form was even possible.

“My motivation started to fall,” Lee said this week at the Team USA media summit.

“I could not bend my legs the slightest, I couldn’t squeeze my fingers, my face was swollen,” Lee said, noting she retained 45 pounds in water weight. “I looked like a completely different person. It was very, very miserable.”

She said she lived with constant pain, nausea and lightheadedness.

“We have it under control now," she said. "We know what to do and the right medication to take.”

The then-18-year-old Lee was thrust into the spotlight at the Tokyo Games when teammate and reigning Olympic champion Simone Biles unexpectedly dropped out in the middle of the team final, citing her mental health. Lee hadn’t been in the original lineup for the U.S. team’s floor exercise but scored a team-best 13.666 to help the Americans claim a silver medal.

A few days later, Lee became the fifth straight American woman to win the Olympic all-around title, using a dazzling set on uneven bars — her signature event — to edge Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade in a tight final that turned Lee into a star.

On to Auburn University she went, but she left the Tigers upon falling ill after her sophomore season last year. She was never a sure thing to come back for Paris, but now she's expected to make the U.S. team, along with Biles, who is coming back as well.

“Initially I decided I wanted to come back because I really was only getting better and I love gymnastics,” Lee said. “I was not ready to be done and I wanted to prove to myself that I could be better than I was at the last Olympics.”

Lee is working on a new bars move that, if she pulls it off in an international competition, could be named after her in the sport's Code of Points.

She said she had a strong support system back home in Minneapolis, which helped her get back on the road to the Olympics.

“I was learning my new skill and I was still able to catch it even at less than 100%,” she said. “It made me realize how much better I was than I thought.”


AP Summer Olympics: