An American gymnast has won the gold medal in the women’s individual all-around… again. For the last five years, since the 2016 Rio Games, it has been assumed that the gold medal would be returning to the United States, with Simone Biles, the greatest gymnast of all time, expected to do the honors for the second straight time. But it wasn’t Biles this time around, after she withdrew for mental health reasons — it was Sunisa “Suni” Lee, who stepped into the spotlight and had her olympic moment.
This event has now belonged to an American woman for five consecutive olympics. Carly Patterson, Nastia Liukin, Gabby Douglas, and Biles set the stage, and Lee, given an unexpected opening to seize her opportunity, did just that.
Lee, a Minneapolis-St. Paul resident, is a Hmong American. She has already made history as the first Hmong American Olympic gymnast, and she carries the pride and the culture of her community with her.
“People hate on us for no reason,” the 18-year-old said when asked about the increasing amount of Asian-American hate. “It would be cool to show that we are more than what they say. I don’t know how to explain that...”
Lee’s father, who was paralyzed last year, chimed in. “It would be the greatest accomplishment of any Hmong person in the U.S. ever,” he says. “It will go down in history.”
Her parents, and the Hmong community, celebrated Lee’s Olympics triumph.
The daughter of immigrants, and now an Olympic gold medalist, the third woman of color in a row to win all-around gold for team USA, an Asian-American, during a year where Asian-American hatred has been on the rise, stands tall on the podium for Team USA. Talk about things that you absolutely love to see.
Speaking of things that you love to see, Biles, who has been in a whirlwind while showing that it is strong to prioritize your own mental health and safety in the face of incredible pressure and expectations, has been the perfect teammate.
This is an Olympic moment that will be etched into the memory of many for the strength and the grit that Lee showed to seize her opportunity, for the conversation that Biles’ decision has carried forward, and for the history that it made. We have an unexpected Olympic champion that deserves to be celebrated.