Sunisa Lee Becomes First Ever Hmong American To Win Olympic Gold Medal

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With Simone Biles withdrawing from the all-around gymnastics at Tokyo Olympics 2020, Sunisa Lee was burdened with the pressure of carrying forward her winning streak. And she persevered through it. On July 29, 2021, Sunisa Lee brought the fifth consecutive gold medal to the USA ( sixth overall) and became the first Hmong American to do so.

Lee belongs to the Hmong American community which consists of people from southeast Asia and China who fought beside American soldiers during the Vietnam war. Lee’s family had migrated from Laos.

Suni Lee’s journey to the gold medal is no fairy tale. She is among those athletes who managed to make it to the mark with little facilities at their hands. When Lee needed a gymnastic beam to practise at home, her family build her one with a mattress in the backyard of their home.

With the Tokyo games being postponed in 2019, Sunisa Lee reportedly suffered from depression and also broke her foot. This set her back from training for three months.

When Lee was going to compete for the nationals, her father fell John Lee fell from a tree and was paralysed. Lee still made it to the competition and finished second to Simone Biles. Her father is still in a wheelchair.

Being from the Hmong community matter to Sunisa Lee as it should. Her efforts to make the community known by people faced a setback when George Floyd was killed by Derek Chauvin. Chauvin’s ex-wife, Kellie Chauvin, too belongs to the same community as Lee. After Floyd’s death, many homes close to Lee’s were reportedly broken into and that was a cause of fear for her family.

This was in addition to the hate crimes committed against Asian-Americans.

Speaking of Simone Biles leaving the Olympics, Sunisa Lee told the media, “The most pressure I’ve ever felt in my life.” And yet her landing on the floor was as firm as it should be.