Olympic hopeful Sunisa Lee gets a big boost from father’s presence at U.S. gymnastics championships

FORT WORTH, Texas — Suni Lee has been waiting for this.

The U.S. gymnastics championships, the first step toward securing a spot on the Tokyo Olympic team, yes. More so, however, for her father to be able to watch her compete in person.

Lee’s father, John, was in the arena Friday night for the first time since an accident almost two years ago left him partially paralyzed.

"It means a lot," John Lee said. "Especially now that Sunisa is getting close to the end of her (elite) gymnastics career and … I’m able to come and watch it. It means a great deal."

His daughter immediately made the trip worthwhile, performing a gorgeous uneven bars routine that, if she makes it to Tokyo, will make her a contender for the gold medal.

just in time for the meet? pic.twitter.com/SNf6NjOFe6

On Aug. 4, 2019, just before Suni Lee left for the national championships, John Lee fell off a ladder while helping a friend trim a tree. The accident injured his spinal cord, paralyzing him from the chest down initially. John Lee also broke his right wrist and fractured several ribs.

He remains in a wheelchair, and said he is doing electronic stimulation on his legs.

Suni Lee decided to go ahead to nationals in 2019, where she finished second to Simone Biles in the all-around competition. Two months later, she established herself as a serious contender for Tokyo at the world championships, winning a silver medal on floor exercise and a bronze on uneven bars in addition to the team gold with the U.S. women.

But her father was never far from her mind. In Stuttgart, Germany, she beamed when she talked of being able to FaceTime with her father, who was still at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, ahead of qualifying.

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