The gold-medalist won’t have to choose between college and her gymnastics career.
Sunisa “Suni” Lee is taking on the gymnastics world one step at a time. She scored three medals during the 2021 Olympic Games, including Olympic gold in the individual all-around final for gymnastics. Now that she’s come so far, people are curious about what’s next for the athlete. Considering she’s heading to Auburn University in the fall, you may be wondering if Suni Lee will compete on Auburn’s gymnastics team. Here’s everything to know about her plans.
When Lee scored an Olympic gold medal for her total score of 57.433 during her all-around final performance on Thursday, July 29, fans were hype about her win. Now that her part in the 2021 Summer Olympics is over, she’s heading to her next step — college. Lee will attend Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama as a freshman in the fall — a step that most Olympic gymnasts wouldn’t have done until now.
If you’re guessing Lee is headed to Auburn to compete on the school’s gymnastics team, you’re right — but it's a historically unusual move. According to The Wall Street Journal, Lee will become the first American Olympic all-around champion to move on to National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) gymnastics. She’s the first after a recent overhaul to the NCAA eligibility rules that allows collegiate athletes to accept monetary endorsements, go on tours, and profit from their names, images, and likenesses — options that were previously prohibited by the NCAA. Because of the past restrictions, other Olympians’ post-Olympics opportunities made it nearly impossible for them to go through with a university scholarship since it would mean forfeiting so much.
Thanks to these changes, though, the 18-year-old is attending the Alabama-based university on a gymnastics scholarship. Her coach there is someone she’s familiar with — Jeff Graba, the twin brother of Jess Graba, her current coach. Jeff called it “a big deal” in an interview with The Auburn Plainsman. “One of the best athletes in the world, not just gymnasts in the world, but one of the best athletes in the world, has chosen to come to Auburn,” Jeff said, adding, “I take it as a big deal that she was coached by my brother and chose to be coached by me for the next four years.”
After celebrating her win, she told reporters on Friday, July 30, that she’s set to take a couple of weeks off of her gym routine and head to college. “That’s my way of celebrating—going to college,” she said.
After placing fifth in the beam individual final on Tuesday, Aug. 2, Lee finished her final event in the games and told reporters her college move-in date is Aug. 11. "I don't get home until [Aug. 5], so get home and pack and leave."
She’s likely taking her medals with her to Auburn to help push herself to keep succeeding. "They're my Olympic medals, and I don't want to lose them. [I’m] probably going to take my worlds medals, too, just in case. It's gonna push me every single day to be even better," she said.
Lee also told People in an interview on Aug. 3 that she was very proud of her performance. “I'm actually super happy with the way this turned out. I didn't get a medal [for the beam final], but that's not the end of the world. I'm still going home with three medals, so it's just amazing," said Lee.
Whatever opportunities come up for Lee, it seems she’s got herself set to make some fire gymnastic movies at Auburn University, and maybe even the 2024 Summer Olympics.