Jordan-Hare Stadium was filled with chants of “USA, USA” on Sunday during freshman convocation as gold medalist Suni Lee arrived to begin her first year as an Auburn Tiger.
Lee has gone on an unprecedented journey from the Olympics in Tokyo to the Plains of Auburn, Alabama.
“It's been pretty amazing,” said Lee in regards to arriving on campus. “I'm super excited for the rest of the season.”
Lee won three medals at the Olympics: — a bronze in uneven bars, the Team USA silver medal, and the individual all-around gold.
While her feats in gymnastics were incredible, Lee said she is taking a break from the sport as school begins.
“Right now, I'm taking a little bit of a break from gymnastics and just focusing on healing my body and just mentally as well because the Olympics is so hectic and I just haven't had any time for myself. So that's the main goal right now,” said Lee during a media sessions with Auburn beat writers last week.
Lee admits that while it was an honor to compete at Tokyo, there were several new challenges that the Covid restrictions posed.
The biggest challenge for Lee was simply that there was no crowd to react to what they were doing.
“I feel like I'm the type of person that thrives off of the crowd so when we didn't have the crowd, it was kind of hard to keep your adrenaline up or even be excited about competing,” she said.
As a gymnast, Lee has grown up with very unusual schooling, rotating between regular and online classes. While it may seem simple for an Olympian, Lee said one of the things she is looking for is just being inside of a classroom.
“I'm just excited to be in a classroom and other people and just kind of get that college experience that I've been looking for.”
Lee is one of four Auburn Tigers to ever win three or more medals at the same Olympics. Her first college classes began on Monday as she rests and focuses on healing her body and growing her mind.
The new NIL ruling is a large part of why Lee has been able to come to Auburn, with gymnasts typically needing to choose between turning professional and forgoing and/or postponing college.
Now, she will be able to continue her career under Auburn head coach Jeff Graba, the twin brother of her longtime club coach, Jess Graba, who Lee said is "like a second dad."
"I think me and Jeff are going to get along really well," said Lee. "Every time I look at him, he just reminds me of Jess, so it's not like there's much of a difference.
Lee noted several times how nice everyone in Auburn had been to her, a trend that will hopefully be as consistent as Lee’s performance. For now, Lee can bask in her earned success and enjoy being a college student.