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Gymnast Suni Lee Recounts 'Hard' But 'Incredible' Journey to the 2024 Olympics After Kidney Disease Diagnosis

Jul. 2 2024, Published 12:01 p.m. ET

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Suni Lee had an uphill battle to make it to the 2024 Olympics.

The gymnast, 21, got candid during a Monday, July 1, appearance on Today alongside her teammates Simone Biles, Jordan Chiles, Jade Carey and Hezly Rivera, as she revealed she nearly did not make it to Paris for the global event after being diagnosed with kidney disease.

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Suni Lee had an uphill battle to make it to the 2024 Olympics.

"We didn’t think I would be here," Lee explained. "So, getting through all of those events and … everything that we had to go through this week to get to where we are right now, it was just such a hard, incredible journey."

The athlete admitted there were "many times where I thought about quitting and just giving up because I was so sick, and it was just so hard to stay motivated, watching everybody get better."

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Suni Lee almost didn't compete in the 2024 Olympics.

"And I’m just like, ‘I can’t even get back into the gym’ and constantly doubting myself," Lee, who won the women’s individual All-Around competition in 2021, explained of the hardship.

In 2023, the Olympian found out she had an incurable kidney disease. However, she would not allow the health setback from keeping her from being a champion. "I was just reminded of my goals every day and constantly surrounded by people who never let me give up, and I’m so thankful," Lee said upon making this year's team.

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Suni Lee was diagnosed with kidney disease.

Following her successful run at the 2021 games, the Minesota native noticed something was wrong with her body. "I kept peeling off the bar. I couldn’t hold on," she recalled in a 2023 interview. “My fingers were so swollen, and I couldn’t even do a normal kip cast to handstand on bars. I just kept getting more swollen…and I think I gained, like, 40 pounds."

After Lee was officially diagnosed, she was filled with fear that her life would never be the same. "What if I’m never allowed to do gymnastics again, or I can never make it to the Olympics again?" the pro noted.

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Suni Lee expressed how grateful she is to be at the 2024 Olympics.

"I look at myself all the time in videos, and it makes me emotional because I’m just not the same athlete I was before," Lee added. "I feel like my mindset switched to the way it was before, where I’m like, 'Okay, now I’m just competing for second.' Sometimes you don’t think that you’re even capable of winning anymore."

Despite all odds, Lee has achieved what she once thought she would never be able to do again. "This comeback was so much more than my return to elite gymnastics. It was me proving to myself that I can overcome hard things, and to hopefully inspire others to never let life's setbacks stop you from going after your dreams," she wrote in a heartfelt Instagram post.

Self magazine conducted the 2023 interview with Lee.

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