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Suni Lee reflects on missteps in bars routine, still winning bronze: 'Sad but blessed'

The 18-year-old gymnast now has a full set of medals from this year's Olympic Games.
/ Source: TODAY

Sunisa Lee is bringing home her third medal from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, even if she's not doing so in the way she would've like.

The 18-year-old gymnast won bronze in the uneven bars final on Sunday, competing as the only member of Team USA in the event following Simone Biles’ decision to withdraw last week.

Lee was up first in the competition, performing a routine that lacked the precision and difficulty of her usual routines. Ultimately, she received a score of 14.5, falling behind Russia’s Anastasiia Iliankova who earned a score of 14.833 and Belgium’s Nina Derwael who took the gold with the top score of 15.2.

Sunisa Lee in the artistic gymnastics women's uneven bars final.
Sunisa Lee in the artistic gymnastics women's uneven bars final on Sunday.Loic Venance / AFP via Getty Images

Lee reflected on the moment on Instagram Sunday, sharing a photo smiling as she posed with her bronze medal. In the caption, she penned an inspirational message about her performance.

“Olympic bronze medalist on bars,” she wrote. “Definitely wasn’t the routine i expected to do, but i’m so proud of myself for not giving up. disappointed & sad but beyond blessed to say i’m third in the world on bars. wish i could have gotten to show everyone what i am capable of !!”

In a press conference after the game, she also opened up about the pressure going into the event.

"I think I just let it get to me, and I lost focus, because I've been so caught up in the media and stuff like that, which isn't good for me," she said.

"I feel like I put too much pressure on myself because it's the Olympics. And also, I felt like I wanted to make everybody else happy because I feel like bars is my thing, and a lot of people were really rooting for me. So I kind of feel like I let people down, but it's OK.''

Lee added that she was glad she persevered despite her mistakes.

"There were so many times in my bar routine where I could have just gave up and jumped off, but I didn't, and now I have a bronze medal. I thought I was done," she recalled. "This medal probably means more to be than the all-around gold medal did, just because bars is my thing. To mess it up like this, I was just kind of sad about it."

Lee now has a complete set of medals from the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Last week, she snagged a silver medal from the women’s team competition and a gold medal at the individual all-around, making her the first Hmong American to compete and win a gold medal in the Olympics.

After winning gold, Lee talked to TODAY’s Hoda Kotb about the big win and what it meant to her and her family, especially her father.

"This has been our dream forever," she told Hoda. "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," she added. "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."

Lee’s bronze is the fourth medal for U.S. women’s gymnastics team. On Sunday, in a major comeback, MyKayla Skinner won her first Olympic medal, a silver, in the vault finals. The gymnast didn’t earn a spot on Team USA for the 2012 London Games and later became an alternate in Rio for the 2016 Olympics.

The individual floor and balance beam finals will take place later this week on Monday and Tuesday respectively.