Suni Lee's parents, John Lee and Yeev Thoj, are immigrants whose families fled from Laos as refugees from the Vietnam War.
Now, their daughter, a rising star in gymnastics at just 18 years old won the Olympic gold medal in the all-around Thursday morning. The win is shocking, not because Suni wasn’t capable, but with Simone Biles deciding not to compete. Biles was a heavy favorite to repeat for Olympic gold.
Lee’s parents, of course, are over the moon after the win in Tokyo. Hundreds of family, friends, and fans gathered at the Brothers Event Center in Oakdale to watch history in the making.
John Lee, Suni’s fathers, told WCCO’s Susie Jones about the excitement they all feel for her.
“Being the first Asian-American to make it to the Olympics was already unreal, and then to win the gold on the world stage is unbelievable,” Lee says. “There's no word that we can express with right now.”
Suni started gymnastics when she was six years old and always wanted to compete right from the start. She has two more Olympic events and her dad says she might be collecting even more gold.
Lee is a favorite in the uneven bars and could add another medal to her gold and silver from the team all-around.
After Simone Biles, the star of the gymnastics world, stepped aside to focus on her mental health, both Lee and teammate Jade Carey became the U.S. hopefuls in the all-around. Carey finished eighth but it was Suni Lee who stepped into the void left by Biles to win the fifth-straight old in the Olympic all-around event by U.S. women. Rebeca Andrade of Brazil finished second and Angelina Melnikova of the ROC took the bronze.
Lee’s mom, Yeev Thoj, says while it’s been a lot of work, it’s been worth it for her daughter.
“Yeah, it's been a long journey for her,” Thoj said. “12 years and it was her dream, so I'm so proud of her that she actually reached her dream.”