Suni Lee felt like she won gold for more than just herself with her superlative performance at Thursday's women's gymnastics all-around competition.
Her father, John Lee, may have been watching all the way back home in Minnesota, but he was close to her heart as she basked in her victory in Tokyo.
"This has been our dream forever," she told Hoda Kotb after her win. "I wish he was here. He always told me if I win the gold medal he would come out on the ground and do a backflip. It's sad that he can't be here, but this is our dream and this our medal.
"We both worked for this. He sacrificed everything to put me in gymnastics. Both my parents really have. This is my family's medal, my medal. My coach's medal. He doesn't get a medal, so I'm dedicating it to all of them."
Her proud father also spoke with Hoda on TODAY by phone from his home in Minnesota Thursday after his daughter's stunning win. John Lee has supported Suni every step of the way, even building her a balance beam in their backyard.
"I’m going to tell her I’m so proud of her," he said. "I want to tell her team that no matter what, you all support her and I want to tell Simone that she truly is the GOAT because she let my baby girl bring the gold medal."
Lee seized her opportunity to shine after her teammate and defending all-around champion Simone Biles opted not to participate in Thursday's competition. She became the fifth straight U.S. gymnast to win gold in the Olympic all-around competition by finishing with a score of 57.44 to top Brazil's Rebeca Andrade, who became the first Brazilian woman to medal in gymnastics.
"This is a crazy experience," she told Hoda. "Like it doesn't even feel like real life. I'm going to be like, 'Oh my gosh am I an Olympic gold medalist?! No!"
Lee entered the final event, the floor exercise, with a slight lead over Andrade, 43.733 to 43.632, and then sealed the win with a 13.700 in her floor routine.
Lee exceeded her scores from the qualifying round in three of the four rotations (floor exercise, vault, uneven bars), stepping her game up on the biggest stage to earn the title as the world's best all-around gymnast.
"I was telling myself nothing more, nothing less, just do the same thing that I always do, telling myself to breathe because my heart was beating so fast," she said. "I was so nervous, I just tell myself to go out there and give it my all because at this point there is no turning back."
Lee's gold adds to the silver medal Team USA won in the team competition on Tuesday after they rallied in Biles' absence.
"The silver medal yesterday is something we're so proud of and now this one, I'm just like super proud," she said. "I didn't think I would be here ever, but this is a dream come true and I've worked so hard for it."