“i am just fantastic pleased with myself for making it here, because there was a factor in time once I desired to stop,” stated Lee, who has had a tough years.
Suni Lee changed into representing the us whilst she gained gold in the ladies’s man or woman all-around gymnastics final on Thursday — however after a tough couple of years, she become particularly inspired to win for her family, her Hmong community back domestic and herself.
“It feels brilliant loopy, I genuinely did not think i might be here on this second with the gold medal,” Lee said after her win. “i am just incredible proud of myself for making it here because there was a point in time once I desired to cease.”
The 18-12 months-vintage from Minnesota competed on the 2019 U.S. National Gymnastics Championships days after her father, John Lee — her staunchest supporter — fell from a ladder and became paralyzed.
She considered skipping the championships, but her father from the hospital encouraged her to continue. She told NBC’s “TODAY” she thought of him “the whole time and it helped me a lot.”
She went on to take gold on uneven bars, second place in the all-around and third in the floor exercise.
Then, in 2020, when Covid hit, she was forced to pause training. During the pandemic, she lost her aunt and uncle to the virus. And shortly after returning to gymnastics in June 2020, she injured her ankle, putting her back out of commission for three months.
The pause, she told People, helped her “mentally and physically.”
“Right now, mentally it’s helped because it makes me want this even more,” she said. “I want to do it for my family and coaches obviously, but I also want to do it for myself. I’ve just been through so much.”
Tokyo, though, came with its own disappointment — Lee’s family was unable to be in the stands to cheer her on due to Covid restrictions.
“This has been our dream for like the longest, basically since I was a baby,” she said of her and her dad.
“I wish he was here,” she told Hoda Kotb after her win on Thursday. “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 our medal.”
“We both worked for this. He sacrificed everything to put me in gymnastics. Both my parents really have,” said Lee, who has five siblings. “This is my family’s medal, my medal, my coach’s medal.”
Lee, who is headed to Auburn University in the fall, told The New York Times that she got into gymnastics when she was 6 years old after getting hooked on YouTube videos of the sport. “Once I started, I just couldn’t stop,” she said. “It looked so fun, and I wanted to try it myself.”
John Lee told NBC’s “TODAY” that, to get her started, he built her a balance beam in the backyard since the family couldn’t afford one.
“He’s been by my side through everything, and he’s done all my competitions with me,” Lee said.
While her family’s absence in Japan is “heartbreaking,” Lee told People, “I think they’re going to have a little watch party.”
Sure enough, Lee’s family and dozens of loved ones and supporters in St. Paul, were watching together Thursday and erupted into cheers when it was clear she would be bringing home the gold.
Lee told Elle magazine in May that her Hmong community back home is “really close.”
Her success, she said, “means a lot to the Hmong community … and to just be an inspiration to other Hmong people [means] a lot to me too.”
Lee had already made history as the first Hmong American to compete in the Olympics, and Thursday made more when she became the first Asian American woman to win gold in the Olympics’ all-around competition.