The 18-year-old won gold on Thursday at the women’s all-around gymnastics event. It’s one of the most-watched competitions out of all the sports in the Summer Olympics. Her teammate Simone Biles was the clear favorite heading into the week. However, she withdrew from the remaining events earlier in the week. Therefore Lee’s chances of going for gold increased dramatically.
Following her gold medal win, Lee has positioned herself for a huge payday. Like other Olympians in the past, she’ll be able to sign lucrative endorsement deals. Yet previously, as a teenager, her options would have been limited if she had plans to attend college. Lee is planning to attend Auburn University where she’ll continue her gymnastics career. A recent change in NCAA rules will allow her to profit off endorsements, but that wasn’t always the case before this summer.
In 2016, another Olympics star Katie Ledecky had to forego any endorsement deals to be eligible to attend Stanford University. Even though the young swimmer had just won four gold medals, she was forced to choose between the money and the college experience. The unfair NCAA rule has been lifted recently, and Lee will be one of the first American Olympians to truly benefit from the change.
Lee’s gymnastics coach at Auburn, Jeff Graba, shared how vital the rule change has been for young athletes.
“I just love the fact that… thank goodness for the NIL, because she doesn’t have to make a horrible decision,” Graba said, according to al.com. “She’s capable of, in her words, ‘I want it all. I want to be able to do everything.’ Now she actually gets that shot.”
Suni Lee Gained More Than 750,000 Instagram Followers Following 2020 Tokyo Olympics Gold Medal Win
Thankfully, Suni Lee isn’t in Katie Ledecky’s shoes when it comes to having to choose between college or endorsement deals. She’ll be able to take part in both. In addition, the gymnast will be able to profit from her enormous increase in Instagram followers.
Previous to winning the gold medal on Thursday, Lee had around 250,000 followers on the social media platform. Within hours of her gold medal performance, her account surpassed one million followers. She seemed genuinely stunned by the huge uptick in followers and said as much in her Instagram Story.
“1 Mil… I’m speechless,” she wrote, and added a crying emoji along with a heart emoji.
For reference, social media influencers can get paid huge sums of money for their posts. According to a 2019 USA Today article that they updated in March, users with more than a million followers can make serious money. The source reported that influencers with up to one million followers can make $10,000 per post. Influencers with more than one million followers can rake in upwards of $100,000, and sometimes even more.
In Lee’s case, she can command thousands now to simply post one picture of herself with a brand’s product. Not bad at all for an 18-year-old coming off the performance of a lifetime at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.