St. Paul native Sunisa Lee has spent her entire life working for this moment. She started in gymnastics as highly energetic 6-year-old, and as she rapidly progressed through the sport, she eventually started to set her sights on the Olympics.
And on Thursday, she became an Olympic gold medalist — and in the biggest event of all, the all-around competition.
On Tuesday, the 18-year-old Lee led the U.S. to a silver medal in the team competition after the American star Simone Biles withdrew from the meet.
Here are some things to know about Lee, our newest Olympic gold medalist:
- She is the first Hmong American to represent Team USA in the Olympics.
- She hails from St. Paul, the city with the largest concentration of Hmong in a metro area outside of Southeast Asia.
- Her parents, John Lee and Yeev Thoj, are both immigrants from Laos. While John is not her biological father, Sunisa decided to take his last name.
- She has five siblings — sisters Shyenne and Evionn, and brothers Jonah, Lucky and Noah.
- Her father is paralyzed from the waist down. He fell out of a tree in the days leading up to 2019 U.S. Championships, the meet in which Sunisa first really gained national attention with her performance.
- She graduated from South St. Paul High School this year.
- Her routine on the uneven bars is widely regarded to be the most difficult in the world. That said, Lee lists beam as her favorite event on the USA Gymnastics website.
- She will attend Auburn University in the fall and compete on the gymnastics team.
- She is very active on social media with more than 400,000 followers on Instagram and nearly 150,000 followers on TikTok.