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Hmong American Olympian Sunisa “Suni” Lee received a parade in St. Paul, Minn., after returning home from the 2020 Tokyo Games with three medals.
Welcome home: Crowds gathered at White Bear Avenue in St. Paul on Sunday as Lee, 18, rode atop a fire truck to a ceremony outside Aldrich Arena in Maplewood to celebrate her success at the Olympics, according to MPR News.
- Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, state Sen. Foung Hawj and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter were present at the event emceed by KARE11 anchor Gia Vang, KARE11 reported.
- The young athlete’s father, John Lee, and her mother, Yeev Thoj, thanked the crowd in Hmong and English for attending the parade. Her father also thanked Laos, Thailand and the United States for what the countries have given them.
- “Laos for giving me and my wife birth, Thailand for taking care of us when we needed it and the USA — the land of opportunity — which gave birth to my daughter Sunisa and the opportunity for her to reach her goal and become the first Hmong American all-around world champion,” he said.
Inspiring the youth: Lee took to the stage during the parade to share words of inspiration with her young fans, MPR reported.
- She encouraged them to continue pursuing their dreams, saying, “If you ever want to reach your dreams, please try and go for it, because you never know how far you’re going to get. Even if it gets hard, don’t ever stop.”
- “After 18 months of not having much to cheer about, thank you for giving us a day of joy,” Walz, who declared July 30 – the day Lee won the gold medal – “Sunisa Lee Day,” said at the event.
- Lee dedicated her gold medal to her father when she arrived home.
— Sharon Yoo (@SharonKARE11) August 8, 2021
The crowd’s reaction: Lee’s recent achievement at the Olympics helped shine a spotlight on the Hmong community, and residents are proud of her, according to ESPN.
- “Seeing one of our own people come out of the mud, as they say, to do what she did, it was amazing,” St. Paul and Hmong resident Chee Moua Vang told ESPN. “We were proud [when she won]. We were crying. We were cheering. She put us on the map, which is ironic because Hmong people don’t have a country of our own. So it means a lot.”
- The crowd also chanted her name, some waving signs saying “We love you Suni!”
- Carter said the city “needed this opportunity to celebrate. And it’s poetic that this opportunity to celebrate came through a daughter of our Hmong community.”
— Lindsay Guentzel (@LindsayGuentzel) August 8, 2021