For many of the young gymnasts at a South Bay gymnastics academy, Suni Lee’s gold medal in the women’s all-around at the Tokyo Olympics was inspiring.
Lee stunned the world by winning gold in the wake of Simone Biles’ abrupt withdrawal from the competition.
“There are definitely a lot of emotions, but I’m super proud of myself for sticking with it and believing in myself because this medal would not be possible without my coaches, the medical team, my parents,” Lee said.
Lee is the first Asian American to win the all-around and the first Hmong American to be an Olympian.
“The fact that Suni stood up when no one else could is very inspirational to me because it shows that Asian Americans are able to step up when no one else can,” 16-year old Kristin Lin said.
Aki Tanda, 10, offered a similar sentiment.
“It motivated me before, but it motivates me more now because she showed how Asian Americans can really do the sport,” she said.
There was also a lot of pride in the Bay Area’s small but enthusiastic Hmong community, including Oakland City Councilwoman Sheng Tao, who is the first Hmong American woman to be elected to a city council in California.
“American dream being realized and it means so much more to the Hmong community,” she said. “It’s just not like, ‘Yes, Sunisa won gold,’ but it’s symbolic. It means that all the hardship that our ancestors and our parents have gone through, through the war and what have you, it’s all worth it because we are here and we can realize our dreams.”
Suni Lee dominated the women’s gymnastics all-around on Thursday, winning the U.S. a gold medal for the fifth Olympics Games in a row. Lee and Jade Carey handily carried the torch after teammate Simone Biles dropped out of the women’s gymnastics all-around earlier this week, placing first and eighth overall.