First Hmong American gold medalist Suni Lee allegedly pepper sprayed in anti-Asian attack in LA
By Khier Casino
November 11, 2021
Racist attack: The 18-year-old athlete, who became the first Hmong American gymnast to make it to the Olympics, told Pop Sugar that she requested an Uber with her Asian friends when a group in a passing car shouted racist slurs, such as “ching chong,” at them.
- One of the passengers in the vehicle allegedly pepper-sprayed Lee’s arm as they drove off.
- “I was so mad, but there was nothing I could do or control because they skirted off,” she said.
- “I didn’t do anything to them, and having the reputation, it’s so hard because I didn’t want to do anything that could get me into trouble. I just let it happen.”
- Following the attack, Lee said she immediately called her coach, Jess Garba, whom she has referred to previously as her “bestfriend & second dad.”
Mental toll: Lee, who also took home a silver medal in the artistic team all-around and a bronze in the uneven bars at the Tokyo Summer Olympics, said she makes her mental health a priority, especially during difficult times.
- “When I shared that I was feeling down, so many people reached out and either sent positive messages of encouragement or told me they were feeling similarly and not to feel alone,” she said.
- “It’s OK to feel down sometimes, but what I’ve realized is that it’s important to express your feelings and ask for help. In the past, I might have pushed on and not acknowledged the state of my mental health. But there’s so much power in owning your feelings. It’s not weakness, it’s actually taking control.”
- Lee can currently be seen busting moves on “Dancing With the Stars.”
This is not the first time an Olympian has been racially attacked. In April, Sakura Kokumai, 28, was training for a karate competition at the Tokyo Games when a man came up to her and threw racial slurs.
Featured Image via Getty
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