John Lee, the father of Olympic gold medalist Suni Lee, received a new wheelchair from decorated gymnast and his daughter’s teammate, Simone Biles, last week.
Why he needed a wheelchair: In 2019, John fell off a ladder while trying to help a neighbor trim a tree. The accident left him with a spinal cord injury, which left him paralyzed from the chest down, as per NBC News.
- The accident occurred just two days before Suni was set to compete at the U.S. Championships. Suni considered skipping the event, but her father pushed her to keep fighting.
- “She almost didn’t go because I was in surgery. Her and her coach came over and I woke up and said, ‘You worked so hard for it, just go,'” John told CBS Minnesota.
- Two years later, Suni would join the Tokyo Olympics to win the individual all-around event — essentially gymnastics’ biggest prize. “This has been our dream forever. I wish he [her father] was here,” Suni told Today after her victory. “We both worked for this.”
More independence: John, who has been using a manual wheelchair, often needs assistance from Suni’s brother, Lucky. He said Biles’ gift — which will be custom-fitted — will give him more independence when moving around.
- Biles, 24, offered her gift to John with a video message via “Today.” Reporter Natalie Morales delivered them on Wednesday.
- “Hi, Mr. Lee, it’s Simone. I love your daughter Suni so much and I know how much she loves you,” Biles said in the video. “You have done so much for her so I reached out to my friends at the ‘Today’ show to see if we could do something special for you. Hope you like it.”
- John was led to their driveway where his family held signs that read, “We love you!” and “Thank you!” A representative from Quantum Rehab stood next to a brand new wheelchair.
- “Oh my god. Oh my, that is awesome,” John exclaimed. “Well, this is amazing. Thank you, guys.”
- This is not the first time John and Biles had exchanged meaningful words. He said on “Today” after Suni’s victory, “I want to tell Simone that she truly is the GOAT because she let my baby girl bring me a gold medal.”