At just 18 years old, Sunisa “Suni” Lee has become the first Hmong-American to win gold at the Olympic Games.
The all-around yesterday was close, with Sunisa gradually slipping past Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade in the third rotation, and leading by one-tenth of a point.
Sunisa won gold with 57.433 points in the final round, 0.135 more than Andrade, who took silver.
Emerging victorious, Sunisa has become the fifth consecutive gymnast from the United States to win gold in the all-around.
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She took social media by storm following an interview given with “TODAY,” during which her father outlined the challenges and hardships faced by the family.
“This has been our dream forever,” Sunisa told journalists after her win. “I wish he [my father] was here. He always told me if I win the gold medal, he would come out on the ground and do a backflip. It’s sad that he can’t be here but this is our dream and this is our medal.”
Her father, John Lee, became paralyzed from the chest down after falling from a ladder in an accident in 2019.
“We both worked for this. He sacrificed everything to put me in gymnastics. Both my parents really have. This is my family’s medal, my medal. My coach’s medal. He doesn’t get a medal, so I’m dedicating it to all of them.”
Sunisa Lee had been interested in gymnastics from a young age, and without a beam to practice on, her father built one for her in the family’s backyard.
Suni spoke of the Hmong community in Minnesota as especially tight-knit during an interview in May with Elle magazine prior to her qualifying for the Olympics.
The gymnast said she had struggled over the past year with the rise in anti-Asian hate, hoping that an Olympic victory would show people that “we are more than what they say,” she said.
Born as Sunisa Phabsomphou, the gymnast changed her last name to Lee following her father, a Hmong-American also from Laos.
She has five siblings, with sister Evionn also competing in gymnastics at the regional level.
The family lives in St. Paul, in the State of Minnesota, United States.