AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Olympic gymnastics champion Sunisa Lee said a kidney issue cut short her college career, but she still has her sights set on the Paris Games next year.
Lee, who already had announced plans to leave college and resume training at the elite level this spring, missed the end of the regular season, the Southeastern Conference championships and the NCAA regional because of what Auburn described as a “non-gymnastics health issue.” She revealed Monday in a post on social media that it was related to kidney problems.
“It’s been challenging to end my Auburn career early, but I am thankful for all the love and support,” Lee wrote. “I will not stop pursuing my dreams for a bid to Paris in 2024. In fact, this experience has sharpened my vision for the future. I appreciate all the love and support, and I want to especially thank my doctors, coaches, and the Auburn medical staff for their care during this time.”
Lee was the 2020 women’s all-around gymnastics champion in Tokyo. She then became the first reigning Olympic champion to compete at the NCAA level, taking advantage of new name, image and likeness rules that allow college athletes to make money while competing.
Lee said in November that this would be her final season at Auburn before focusing on preparations for her second Games.
As a freshman, she won the NCAA title on the balance beam and was runner-up in the all around. Before shutting down for the season in late February, Lee set a program record with nine perfect scores in less than two seasons, five on the beam and four on bars.
“For my safety, the medical team did not clear me to train and compete over the last few weeks,” Lee wrote. “I am blessed and thankful to be working with the best specialized medical team to treat and manage my diagnosis. My focus at this time is my health and recovery.”
Lee became the fifth straight American woman to earn the Olympic title when she edged Rebeca Andrade of Brazil. U.S. teammate and 2016 Olympic champion Simone Biles had taken herself out of the competition to focus on her mental health.
“I’ve been able to experience that once-in-a-lifetime feeling and the indescribable emotion when a gold medal is draped around your neck,” Lee said in a November social media post. “But I don’t want it to be just once in a lifetime.”