AUBURN, ALABAMA (EETV) When the doors opened at Auburn Arena and of the Tiger gymnastics preview meet on Friday night, there was an energy in the air unlike any other level of anticipation many fans had experienced before. There were certainly elements of excitement similar to that of years past; however, this year’s preseason exhibition presented a unique opportunity for gymnastics: the chance to watch an Olympic champion take the floor in an Auburn leotard.
Freshman Suni Lee’s introduction to Auburn arena was one Tiger fans will likely never forget and a moment that the newcomer will cherish for years to come.
"It was amazing," Lee said. "I feel like the last time I felt a crowd like that was olympic trials. It felt amazing to have the crowd and have energy."
As an Olympic Champion in the all-around, one might imagine that Lee’s experience on the highest stage serves as a source of confidence in regard to performing at the collegiate level. The young star claims that she still suffered from first-meet jitters, falling on her debut beam routine.
"I think i put a little too mych preesure on myself especially coming off the Olympics," Lee said. "But I'm really proud of myself. I got my bar routine."
The first-time nerves calmed quickly and Lee bounced back in her ensuing appearance on the uneven bars, flawlessly executing her routine and bringing the entire arena to it’s loudest cheers of the evening
"For my bar routine, I actually went up to the crowd and was like 'get loud,'" Lee said. "Because I really needed that to push me to do well on the bar."
Auburn head coach Jeff Graba was proud of his standout freshman’s debut, emphasizing how beneficial it is to have both her skillset and personality as a part of the program.
"I think you get better when youre around really good perople," Graba said. "The competition in the gym is really high right now and it was high before she came back from dancing with the stars. It's what happens on great teams; great players make graeat teams better."
Although appearances from Lee were certainly a large pull for fans to attend the preview, Tiger fans were also treated to the opportunity to see the vast range of skill sets possessed by the program in its entirety. Senior Derrian Gobourne was excited to see her entire squad get a chance to work in front of the home crowd.
"Obviously we still have some cleaning up to do," Gobourne said. "...but we wanted to go big and have fun and I think everyone did a really great job."
With the preseason meet now behind them, the Tigers now go back to work to prepare for the squad's opening competition in 2022 when the Tigers travel to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to compete in the North Carolina quad meet on January 7. Eagle Eye will provide updates with T.V. and streaming information for the meet as it becomes avaliable.