Suni Lee arrives at Auburn for college gymnastics career

AUBURN, ALA. – Suni Lee’s business education at Auburn will be multifaceted.

A member of the first class of NCAA student-athletes to capitalize on name, image and likeness (NIL) opportunities, she will study marketing principles and concepts in classrooms while applying them from Main Street to Madison Avenue.

“I have to take advantage of this opportunity,” said Lee, the teen from St. Paul who arrived at Auburn with gold in the all-around, and also silver and bronze medals from the Tokyo Olympics. “Nobody has done it before. I want to help be the face of that and help other people in the future know that they can do college and still make money. I feel like it’s a win-win situation.”

Supported by a management team to handle her endorsements and appearances while also relying on Auburn gymnastics head coach Jeff Graba and assistant coach Ashley Johnston for guidance, Lee plans to capitalize on NIL while balancing the need to rest and recover from the Olympics while preparing for her freshman season.

“Right now, rest is the main focus because at the Olympics I was a little bit beat up,” she said on Friday. “Coming here, I was hoping to let my body rest, and mentally as well, because that does take a lot out of me.

“I just want to focus on myself and getting ready for the season. I have a really good team behind me. I’m excited for everything that’s going to be coming in the future.”

While living on campus and rooming with a gymnastics teammate, Lee looks forward to attending her first Auburn football game next month, an opportunity to blend in and to cheer rather than be cheered.

“It’s amazing how everyone here has been so supportive and so welcoming about me coming here,” she said. “I know it’s crazy to have an Olympic gold medalist come, but I’m excited because I feel like everybody here is so nice and the atmosphere is way different than I thought it would be.

“A lot of people here know me. I just got here so of course people are going to be excited. Once it dies down, I feel like it will be a little better and I’ll be able to do stuff and be able to go somewhere without being called out. I’m really happy to be here.”

For years, Lee has been planning to attend Auburn, as she puts it, ‘To start the next chapter after the Olympics.”

“I’m just excited to be in a classroom with other people and get that college experience that I’ve been looking for,” she said. “Everybody here is so nice and welcoming. It feels like home.

“I just wanted to have some fun. Elite gymnastics was so hard and there’s never any time to have fun or hang out with your friends. Coming here, I can be more free, and I’m just excited to be part of a team.”

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