'Daily Thing That I Have to Battle': Olympian Suni Lee Shares 'Isolating’ Eczema Struggle

As she looks ahead to the Paris Olympics, the gold medalist shares how she’s overcome the stress of the chronic skin condition U

Published Time: 10.06.2024 - 18:31:04 Modified Time: 10.06.2024 - 18:31:04

As she looks ahead to the Paris Olympics, the gold medalist shares how she’s overcome the stress of the chronic skin condition

U.S. Olympic champion Sunisa 'Suni' Lee is sharing her lifelong struggle with eczema, which she said started when she was child.

“My skin was always super dry, super flaky. It was really uncomfortable because it was really itchy," she said, according to CBS News, sharing that her mom took her to a dermatologist to help get the chronic skin condition under control.

"It can be kind of isolating when you deal with eczema and having an eczema flare-up, so I just want people to know that you are not alone and it does not define you." 

Lee, who won the gold medal for Team USA in the gymnastics all-around at the Tokyo Summer Olympics, is looking forward to the upcoming gymnastic trials, which will determine who represents the U.S. at the upcomingParis Olympics. Lee, 21, shared her eczema struggle during a panel with pharmaceutical brand Eli Lilly and Company, which is a sponsor of Team USA.

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"Eczema flare ups, they can definitely get in my head," said Lee during the panel. "Being on a competition floor, having so many eyes on you and just trying not to be worried about if people are looking at my skin or like itching myself because the more that I itch myself, the flakier it's going to get, the drier it's going to get."

The National Eczema Association says that “anxiety and stress” can trigger a flare-up of the itchy, ch -

ronic condition — something Lee said she experiences. 

Stress is “a daily thing that I have to battle," she said, and that  "definitely starts to pick up when I have to perform."

"I do have to be out there in a leotard where my skin is fully exposed and everyone can see it, and the insecurity I feel like was just holding me back," she said. "So the more I started to embrace it ... and just went out there and competed with it, I was fine.”

"When you deal with it and you're constantly looking down at your skin, you probably think, 'Oh, other people are looking at it and staring at it.' But in reality, I don't really think anyone's looking that hard.”

The gymnast — who said she has a treatment plan in place for her eczema — has been open about her other health struggles, sharing that she was diagnosed with an incurable kidney disease that forced her to cut her college gymnastics career short.

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But she said that she’s taking steps to protect her mental health: “I like to journal and get out everything I feel. I also go to therapy a lot, where I can just say how I feel and just work through all of the mental challenges that I have to go through."

And now, she’s looking to the future — and competing for her place on Team USA.

"I have had to deal with so much the past two years. Just feels so good to know that I can be back out there, not even at my best, and I can still be able to perform," she told CBS News. 

"I'm so excited."

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