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Olympian Suni Lee Adjusts To Life As Collegiate Athlete

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - Suni Lee will start her college gymnastics career this weekend. St. Paul's Olympic champion-turned Auburn Tiger is making the transition from famous athlete to student athlete.

Lee hasn't been home to Minnesota since her welcome home parade right after winning gold at the Tokyo Games this summer.

"I definitely wanna go back home sometime soon because I miss my family, I miss my friends. And I think it'll just be nice to be back in my hometown," said Lee.

Since winning the gymnastics All-Around, Lee has become one of the most famous athletes in the country. Which is not the ideal runway to start a college career.

Credit: Getty Images

"Is she still a premiere athlete, in my opinion the best athlete in the world? Yes," said Auburn gymnastics head coach Jeff Graba. "She needed some time off after the Olympics. And unfortunately in her world, she didn't get that."

When asked if she could have imagined where she would be before her first college meet, Lee answered: "No. I think it's so crazy to just look at the progress I've made. Not even physically in my gymnastics, but also mentally. Once I went through the Olympics and went to L.A., I really had to grow up because I had to take on so many responsibilities. I was living by myself. And I think having to do that has really helped me in college because the transition has not been easy."

Lee competed in "Dancing with the Stars" this fall, exiting in the semifinal round. She made multiple late night talk show experiences, and was named Sports Illustrated's athlete of the year.

Lee says she has struggled with her mental health over the past couple months. She's working on that, while also healing from a shin injury and training for her college debut. That means different rules, equipment, and routines.

"(For) bars, I'm doing my second half. Like what I did at the Olympics, I'm just doing the second half. It's way easier. And beam is downgraded as well. Floor is really downgraded," said Lee.

Lee will likely compete in bars and beam and possibly floor this weekend. Her goal for the season: an individual and team SEC title.

The Tigers are on the road for their first competition of the season. They will join North Carolina, NC State, and Bowling Green at the North Carolina Quad Meet, scheduled to start at 6 p.m. on Friday.

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