After winning Olympic gold in Tokyo, gymnast Suni Lee wanted to follow in the footsteps of Simone Biles, Shawn Johnson and Laurie Hernandez.
No, she didn’t want to go to Disney World.
She wanted to compete on “Dancing with the Stars.”
“I’ve actually talked to a bunch of the girls who have been on this show and they’ve all basically told me that anything I do on (‘Dancing’) is not going to be as difficult as I did at the Olympics. They said it’s a lot more fun and I can just express myself, which I’m excited for.”
Lee wowed Olympic audiences by winning a gold medal in the all-around, a silver in the team competition and a bronze in the uneven bars event. She is currently tied for ninth as the most decorated American female gymnast.
The gold medal, she says, is “obviously very beautiful. But I think it would be really cool to get the gold medal and the Mirror Ball. I’ll just have to see.”
Lee will be competing against Melanie C from the Spice Girls, “Bachelor” star Matt James, “Real Housewives” star Kenya Moore, country singer Jimmie Allen, talk show host Amanda Kloots and YouTuber JoJo Siwa who will be the first celeb to be paired with a professional of the same sex.
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“I think it would mean so much to a lot of people around the world if I partnered with another female,” Siwa says during a Zoom conference. “There’s a lot of pressure…and there’s a lot my partner and I are going to have to figure out. But I think it’s going to be fun. It’s weird. It’s different. It’s never been done before.”
Lee, a Minnesota native, says “Dancing” has been a bigger goal for her. “A lot of Olympians come on the show, so I wanted to be like one of them. When I got the opportunity, I was like, ‘Yes! I want to take that.’”
Olympians have done well on the ABC competition series. Speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno, figure skaters Adam Rippon, Kristi Yamaguchi and Meryl Davis, and gymnasts Shawn Johnson and Laurie Hernandez are among the mirror ball winners.
Should she make it to the Disney Night, the 18-year-old Lee says she’d love to portray Mulan “because she’s like a very strong, powerful woman. She’s someone I look up to, somebody that I aspire to be like.”
Siwa says she, too, looks forward to Disney Night. “The most important thing for me is to have fun on this. I’ve do a few elimination shows and, obviously, it’s stressful. You don’t want to go home. But the thing I think I learned on my first one was, ‘Just enjoy it.’”
A dancer as a child, Siwa says she was traumatized getting spray times. I’m very scared of spray tans, so I’ve been tanning every day.”
Both 18, Siwa and Lee say they’re relying on the support of friends and family to see them through the competition.
Enrolled at Auburn University, Lee says she’ll take classes online as long as she’s going to be on the show.
“It’s going to be pretty hard trying to balance out practicing and school, plus all the media and stuff,” Lee says. “But I’m going to try my best. And I also have a pretty good team behind me, so I’m excited.”