ST PAUL, Minn. — Editors note: The video above originally aired on Aug. 3, 2021.
All-around gold medal Olympic gymnast Sunisa Lee stayed just long enough in Minnesota to have a welcome party at the airport and a parade in her honor before leaving to become a tiger at Auburn University in Alabama.
Suni arrived at Auburn Tuesday, a college she committed to a while ago. She didn’t have to make the decision that other gymnasts have faced in the past: Give up their college eligibility and profit from going pro, or compete on the collegiate level. Thanks to new NCAA rules that allow athletes to profit from their fame with their name, image and likeness, Suni can compete in college but still has opportunities to profit under the NIL policies.
Her dad, Houa John Lee, said Suni's schedule is so packed these days there is nothing left but to joke about it. "It’s almost like I got to set an appointment to talk to my daughter," Lee said.
Lee said the family was glad to have Suni home, even if just for a short time. He said one of the biggest things he'll take away from this experience is seeing Suni inspire others to build better relationships between children and their parents.
"It kind of opened a lot of eyes for the parents and the children and, you know, that is something that is really big," he said. "I think it’s really important that people are seeing that," Lee said.
Lee said letting go is hard and he'll naturally worry about her.
"Once they turn 18 it all changes, so from this point on she’s got to make a lot of decisions on her own," Lee said. "It is it is really hard because she may think she knows everything but the thing is she is still my child," Lee said. "To me she’s still my baby."
Lee also said being on TV isn't all it's cracked up to be. He said there's not a lot of privacy.
For now, Suni has not publicly stated if she'll try for the Paris Olympics in 2024.