Coming from someone else, it would have sounded like a cliché. When Suni Lee said it Friday, that shopworn phrase — I'm just happy to be here — brimmed with genuine relief and joy.

The St. Paul native really was grateful to be at the Winter Cup gymnastics meet in Louisville, Ky., competing on uneven bars and balance beam. A few months ago, her coach was just trying to lure the defending Olympic all-around champion out of depression and into the gym. As Lee battled a kidney ailment that interrupted her training, this summer's Paris Olympics seemed an unlikely goal.

She's still trying not to think too far ahead. On Saturday, though, Lee took her first step back onto the road toward the Paris Games — and toward a shot at gymnastics immortality. She attempted a new skill on bars at the Winter Cup, one that will be named for her if she completes it at an international meet.

In her first competition since last summer's national championships, Lee, 20, fell twice during her bars routine and once during her beam set. On Friday, she revealed she is in remission from the kidney condition, which limited her ability to train and compete for the past year.

She came off the bar Saturday while trying the new skill, a release move called a layout Jaeger with a full twist. Though Lee was disappointed, she was undeterred, telling reporters in Louisville, "You can't get anywhere without failing."

Besides, after everything she's overcome, she was truly happy just to get back in the game.

"A lot of the other coaches [were saying], 'Just be grateful you're here,'" Lee said. "I've been super grateful.

"[The performance] obviously wasn't what I wanted. But I haven't trained for that long, so it's going to happen. I'll take it with a grain of salt and just keep pushing."

The Winter Cup kicked off a busy schedule leading to the 2024 Olympics, including a stop at Target Center for the U.S. Olympic trials in June. That remains the long-term goal for Lee, who resumed consistent training only six weeks ago.

The kidney ailment began last winter and cut short her final season of college gymnastics at Auburn. Though she returned for the U.S. Classic and national championships last summer, Lee could train only intermittently and withdrew from September's selection meet for the world championships.

She withdrew from the gym, too. Jess Graba, her coach at Midwest Gymnastics in Little Canada, said Lee was depressed by her health issues for months. He urged her to simply come and hang out with her friends, hoping it would lift her mood and motivation.

In early January, as her condition improved, Lee felt ready to resume training.

"We haven't really trained hard yet," Graba said. "She can't really do everything. She's sore. She's tired. So we're trying to stay focused on things she can do."

Lee said her illness "is pretty much under control for now." Perfecting the new bars skill has been her primary focus, and despite Saturday's fall, she has performed the move flawlessly and consistently in training.

She is hoping to be named to the U.S. team for a World Cup meet in Baku, Azerbaijan, March 7-10. If she completes the skill there, it will be named "the Lee."

"Hopefully, I can get that done, and we can move on to the next thing," she said. "I'm not trying to think about the Olympics and everything afterward because you never know what can happen. I'm just kind of worrying about what comes next."

The Star Tribune did not send the writer of this article to the game. This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material