Gymnast Suni Lee reveals struggle with anxiety attacks in wake of Olympics win: 'I was a wreck'

Sunisa Lee
(Image credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Suni Lee, the U.S. gymnast who won gold at the Tokyo Olympics, is opening up about suffering from impostor syndrome in the wake of her victory.

Lee won a gold medal in women's all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympics in July 2021, making history as the first Hmong American Olympic gymnast. But she told ESPN she has been having difficulty maintaining confidence in herself since then as she competes at Auburn.

"Impostor syndrome," she said. "That's exactly what I have. And it's very hard. It was very hard for me to motivate myself the first couple of weeks here because it was like I didn't want to do gymnastics, I hated it."

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Lee won gold at the Olympics after her teammate Simone Biles unexpectedly pulled out of competition due to mental health issues. In the wake of her win, Lee told ESPN "there's just been so much doubt in like, 'Oh, she shouldn't have won Olympics, blah, blah, blah,' and it really hits my soul," and she said she "put in my head that I didn't deserve to win." She also revealed she has suffered from anxiety attacks before meets, in one case shaking and breathing heavily and almost having to pull out.

"The first couple of the meets of this season, I was a wreck because it was like constant screaming my name and like, 'Suni, can you take a picture?' or 'Can you sign an autograph?' while I'm trying to concentrate," she said. "...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 that when I have that extra pressure stress added on to it, I just kind of break."

Biles has been open about her mental health struggles, and Lee similarly told ESPN it's important to share these issues because "a lot of the times people forget that we're human." Read the full interview at ESPN.

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.