An Olympic gold medalist, Suni Lee, is one of the most recognizable faces in women’s gymnastics currently, especially at the NCAA level with the No. 9-ranked Auburn Tigers.
Currently ranked No. 7 in the country in the all-around, Lee has helped turn the Auburn gymnastics program into a household name and a threat at the NCAA championships.
Lee will not be competing for the Tigers this weekend against Penn State, however, in what was supposed to be the final home meet of her collegiate career (she announced in November that this NCAA season would be her last, as she will set her sights on the 2024 Paris Olympic Games).
Lee announced on social media Thursday that she is sidelined with a non-gymnastics related health issue, though she hopes to return to competition soon.
“I’m saddened to share that I will not be competing in tomorrow’s meet,” Lee wrote on Twitter. “This would have been my last home meet at Auburn, and there is nothing like competing at Neville (Arena). I was looking forward to experiencing the energy and love from that arena one last time, and am sending so much love to my senior teammates. War Eagle!”
In a corresponding statement, Auburn head coach Jeff Graba said: “Suni is going through a non-gymnastics health issue that has impaired her ability to train. We do not want to put our athletes in any position that could risk their overall health and well-being.
“With that said, we’ve decided that it is in Suni’s best interest to take Friday’s meet off. We’re still excited to honor Suni tomorrow for Senior Night in Neville Arena and celebrate all that she and the 2023 class has accomplished.”
Lee’s decision to focus on the Paris Olympics and end her collegiate career early was notable — MyKayla Skinner made a similar decision ahead of the 2020 Olympics — and UCLA’s Jordan Chiles recently announced in an interview with International Gymnast that she is planning on doing something similar after this current college gymnastics season, although she is planning on a return to UCLA following the Paris Games.
“As of right now, after NCAAs (in April) and after the quarter which is over in June, I’ll be going back to Texas. I’ll be training in Texas all of 2024 for the Olympics,” Chiles said in a Q&A. “I’ll just be training. I’ll be deferring (UCLA studies) another year and then I’ll finish schooling afterwards. I haven’t fully decided, but as of right now, I am coming back (to UCLA after Paris), but we’ll see how everything turns out.”
In an interview with Inside Gymnastics last month, Utah’s Grace McCallum — another Tokyo Olympian — didn’t shut the door entirely on a run at the 2024 Olympics either, though a recent hyperextended right knee has her sidelined for the time being.
“Right now I’m just kind of enjoying college, but I have thought about going back to elite,” McCallum said. “I really love watching them (Chiles, Oregon State’s Jade Carey and Florida’s Leanne Wong) and they are doing amazing. Kudos to them for doing both (NCAA gymnastics and elite).
“For me personally, right now, I just want to make sure I make the right decision. I don’t want to go back for the wrong reasons. I don’t want to go back just because I feel like I have to. I want to go back because I truly want to and I want to see what I can achieve there. So it is not out of the question, that is for sure. And I’d love to go back, but we’ll see.”