STUTTGART, Germany – As Sunisa Lee heard the national anthem play for her first world championship gold medal, her thoughts were back home in St. Paul.
Just two months have passed since Lee's father John injured his spine in a fall while helping trim a tree. He's undergoing rehab after suffering partial paralysis.
"It was amazing. I almost started crying. It just feels so surreal and I can't even believe that I'm here and I'm a world champion now. That's so crazy for me," Lee said after being part of the winning U.S. women's all-around team. "[I was] just thinking about the whole routine and my dad. I'm just super proud of this team."
The 16-year-old is at her first world championships after placing second behind only Simone Biles at U.S. nationals in August, days after her father was injured. She won national gold on the uneven bars then, the only athlete other than Biles to win an individual event.
Lee's father is following her progress closely.
"I FaceTimed him last night and he's telling me that he's super excited and proud, and he even woke up super early this morning just to watch," she said Tuesday.
Lee competed on the uneven bars, balance beam and floor in Germany. She showed resilience to recover from slipping off the beam — saying "the nerves got to me" after a long wait at the apparatus — to post the day's third-best score on the floor behind Biles and fellow American Jade Carey.
The U.S. team scored 172.330 points to beat second-place Russia by 5.801 points and win its seventh consecutive team title at an Olympics or world championships. It marked the fifth straight team victory at the world championships.
Lee's best event was the uneven bars, where she led the U.S. with a 14.733 score, the third-best mark in the competition.
After a whirlwind two months, Lee, who trains at Midwest Gymnastics Center in Little Canada, is still adapting to being on the U.S. national team alongside athletes like Biles, now a 21-time world championship medalist.
"A bunch of them have been helping me a lot. Just because I'm the rookie, they've been giving me a lot of pep talks and stuff like that," she said.
"I look up to Simone so much. She's super inspiring and such an amazing gymnast. It's definitely been a crazy ride and I'm super excited to compete in the all-around with her."
Grace McCallum of Isanti is also on Team USA and competed in the vault and uneven bars. Her best score was the vault with a 14.600, third-best on Team USA.
McCallum trains at Twin City Twisters in Champlin.
Meanwhile Biles' 21st medal, earned while the United States retained its women's team all-around title, was history.
It was also Biles' 15th career gold and broke a tie with Russian gymnast Svetlana Khorkina for the most medals overall by a woman at the world championships. She's now two short of Vitaly Scherbo's all-time record of 23 among men or women.
"Every year it feels better and better just because we're adding to the legacy," Biles said. "I feel like I never think of records. I just go out there and do what I came to do, which is compete for the country."
The reward for winning was a battery-powered medal that lights up when it senses movement. Biles called it "the sickest medal we've ever had."
Biles posted the best individual scores on the vault, balance beam and floor.
"I think if I do the routine that I did tonight I'll be more than happy" in Thursday's individual all-around final, she said.
This all took place during the Women's Team Finals, and Biles said other teams were "most definitely" closing in on the U.S.
"All of the teams have improved their difficulty over the last quad, and I think that's really exciting to see the strength that they have."