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Sunisa Lee Makes Olympic History as First Asian-American to Win All-Around Gymnastics Gold

Team USA’s Sunisa Lee, known as Suni, won the gold medal in the women’s gymnastics all-around competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Thursday. The 18-year-old from Saint Paul, Minnesota, is reportedly the first Asian-American woman to win the prestigious top individual title at the Games, according to NBC News.

Lee’s final score was 57.433, which allowed her to narrowly clinch the title over Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade, who earned a 57.298 to win silver. Angelina Melnikova of Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) scored 57.199 to round out the podium with bronze. Lee’s all-around victory comes just days after she helped Team USA win silver in the team competition following the withdrawal of teammate Simone Biles.

Her all-around victory marks the fifth-straight win by a gymnast from Team USA. Lee follows Carly Patterson (2004), Nastia Liukin (2008), Gabby Douglas (2012), and Biles (2016) as Olympic all-around champs.

Not only is Lee the first Asian-American to win the all-around Olympic gymnastics title, she’s also the first Hmong-American to represent the U.S. in the Games. The Hmong people—an ethnic group originally from southern China, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand—have been subjected to a long history of human rights violations and genocide, leading many to flee and seek refuge in other countries, according to the Hmong American Center. Many Hmong people came to the U.S. to seek political asylum, including Lee’s grandparents.

Lee, a first-time Olympian who won team gold as well as silver and bronze individual medals at the 2019 World Championships, has become a household name in the Twin Cities Hmong community, Time reports—and a symbol of representation for the Hmong people in this country.

Gia Vang, a Hmong news anchor at KARE 11 News in Minneapolis, tweeted a video of Lee’s parents and community celebrating the news of her gold medal win:

Throughout her Olympic journey, Lee has credited her father, John Lee, as her biggest supporter. According to NBC News, he built her a balance beam to practice at home when she was a kid and they couldn’t afford a real one. Then, in 2019, he was injured in an accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. According to ESPN, the accident happened just two days before Suni competed in the U.S. National Gymnastics Championships that year—her first senior national championship. 

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