“I Keep It All In Until…”: Suni Lee Discusses Keeping Mental Health in Check Ahead of US Gymnastics Olympic Trials

“Put mental health first because if you don’t, then you’re not going to enjoy your sport and you’re not going to succeed as much as you want to,” once quipped Simone Biles.In the high-stakes world of gymnastics, mental health woes are a dime a dozen. Mental health is a significant issue worldwide, particularly in high-pressure sports. Managing it can be especially challenging for athletes. Consider the case of a 21-year-old artistic gymnast, Suni Lee who won three medals during her first Olympic appearance at Tokyo 2020. But since last year, she has been facing severe health issues, including two incurable kidney diseases. However, her struggles extend beyond just these health challenges.

This athlete has faced numerous challenges throughout her life. After her success at the Olympics, she struggled with self-confidence, even admitting, “I think I just put in my head that I didn’t deserve to win.” This is indicative of impostor syndrome and feelings of inadequacy. In addition to this, she also deals with eczema, a chronic skin condition that can exacerbate stress. With these difficulties, the big question arises- how does she balance her mental health as the Paris Olympics is approaching? What’s her quick fix?

Suni Lee and the chinks in her armor – how does she recalibrate?


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Suni Lee is training hard in hopes of making it to this year’s Paris Olympics, but first, she has to make it through the trials from June 27th to June 30th. This time around, she’s a bit more nervous. It was her dream just to be at the Tokyo Olympics. “There was no pressure behind it besides the pressure that I put on myself,” she says. Now, as Suni carries the weight of her previous medals, the pressure to qualify for the 2024 Olympics has become a challenge for her mental health but the young buck isn’t one to back down from any insurmountable challenge.

She explains that most of the pressure comes from within. To stay grounded, Suni maintains a self-care routine, understanding that winning medals in her first Olympics doesn’t guarantee a spot in the next games. To manage her stress, which she describes as “a daily thing,” Suni relies on journaling and therapy. “I do a lot of journaling,” she says.

I write how I feel because I’m a very private and quiet person. So whenever it comes to my feelings, I keep it all in until I just burst. To keep that under control, I like to journal and get out everything I feel. I also go to therapy a lot, where I can just say how I feel and work through all of the mental challenges that I have to go through.” Ultimately, these practices help her maintain her mental well-being amidst the pressures of elite competition. But this athlete also has advice for people after she has faced anxiety attacks.


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Can Suni Lee handle the weight of expectations?

After Tokyo 2020, she wasted no time, swiftly joining the Auburn University women’s gymnastics team upon her return. This marked the beginning of a juggling act between school commitments and participation in the reality competition show – Dancing with the Stars in Los Angeles. In her first NCAA competitions, she realized the contrast between collegiate gymnastics and elite Olympic-level gymnastics. Unlike individual-focused elite competitions, collegiate gymnastics places a stronger emphasis on team performance.


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The weight of expectations bore down on Lee as her inclusion in the Auburn team was seen as a potential game-changer. However, the transition wasn’t seamless. The weight of expectations, both from herself and from others, took a toll on her mental well-being. Lee candidly shared, “When everybody expects you to be good for Auburn, it’s really hard for me just mentally because I already put so much pressure on myself. When I have that extra pressure and stress added on, I just kind of break.”

She added, “a lot of the times people forget that we’re human. I think people just look at me as a famous person; they don’t actually look at me as a person and to kind of see that we can make mistakes, too.” Moreover, meets brought their own challenges, with Lee grappling with anxiety attacks amidst the clamor of fans seeking autographs and photos, disrupting her concentration. Despite the pressures and expectations, she continues to push forward,him moving towards her goal-Paris 2024, inspiring both her teammates and fans alike.

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