Biles, the defending gold medalist in the all-around competition and considered one of the best gymnasts in the world, withdrew from the event to focus on her mental well-being on Wednesday. That put 18-year-old Lee in prime position to win the event, and Biles was there cheering her on from the sidelines.
With Lee’s victory, she became the fifth American in a row to win the gold medal in the women’s individual all-around gymnastics final. She also made history as the first Hmong American Olympic gold medalist.
Lee scored 57.433 points to take home the gold medal. She pulled off a difficult routine, scoring 15.300 on the uneven bars, which beat all other competitors, a strong 14.600 on the vault and 13.833 on the balance beam to grab the lead and win the gold medal.
She was followed closely by silver medalist Rebeca Andrade of Brazil with 57.298, and Angelina Melnikova of the Russian Olympic Committee earned the bronze medal.
Americans have won the gold medal in the event since the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. Biles took home the gold in the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the winners before her include Gabby Douglas, Nastia Liukin and Carly Patterson. Prior to the recent string of gold medals, American gymnast Mary Lou Retton won the gold medal in the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. With Lee’s win, the United States have now tied the Soviet Union for the most gold medals in the event at six apiece.