Sunisa Lee's Family Had an Epic Reaction to Her Winning Gold That'll Def Make You Cry

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Sunisa Lee's Family Had an Epic Reaction to Her Winning Gold That'll Def Make You Cry
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At the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics, Sunisa “Suni” Lee is making history as the first Hmong American Olympic gymnast champion. What's more, she just took home the gold medal for Team U.S.A. in the individual all-around competition on Thursday — and when she did, her family erupted with total joy and utter excitement.

Their heartwarming reactions to Suni's big gold moment will make you emotional, to say the least:

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Photo credit: Stephen Maturen
Photo credit: Stephen Maturen
Photo credit: Stephen Maturen
Photo credit: Stephen Maturen


Hailing from St. Paul, Minnesota, the 18-year-old athlete has worked towards this moment for more than a decade and has had support from her parents — father, John Lee, and mother, Yeev Thoj — along the way. In fact, it was Suni's dad who helped the Olympian get her start in the world of gymnastics. When she was seven, Elle reports that he repurposed an old mattress into a makeshift balance beam. It was on this homemade apparatus that Suni’s dad taught her how to do flips in their backyard.

Throughout her competitive gymnastics career, Suni has heard pep talks from her dad before taking the floor. But this routine unexpectedly changed in August 2019, just two days before she was supposed to leave for the U.S. National Gymnastics Championships. While trimming a tree, John fell from a ladder and was left paralyzed from the chest down. He also suffered a broken wrist and fractured ribs.

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But even so, John encouraged Suni to go ahead and compete. He made sure to FaceTime her beforehand, asking her to clear her mind and focus.

“I thought he was going to pass away when he was in the hospital, so I didn’t want to go to nationals and compete. But he told me to go, that he really wanted me to go. So I did,” Suni told The New York Times. “Now I realize that if he didn’t push me like that, I wouldn’t be in the spot I am right now with the Olympics so close.”

With her father watching from his hospital bed, Suni dominated the competition and finished second right behind Simone Biles. Suni went on to earn second place again at the U.S. World Championships Selection Camp.

“I knew he was watching me so I did great for him,” she said to The Times.

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Fast forward to June 2021, Suni showed what a difference a year can make with her performance at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships. In addition to getting one step closer to the Summer Games, the occasion marked the first time in almost three years that Suni’s dad was able to watch her compete in person. Suni placed second again, a third time behind Simone.

"It means a lot," John told USA Today. "Especially now that Sunisa is getting close to the end of her (elite) gymnastics career and ... I’m able to come and watch it. It means a great deal … I just told her, 'Go out there, just go have fun, don’t worry about anything, just enjoy. Do your best.’”

At the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials, Suni secured her spot on Team USA. Although her dad and the rest of her family won’t be able to attend the Summer Olympics in person due to COVID-19 restrictions in Tokyo, Suni knows that they’ll still be cheering her on like they’ve always done.

"It's pretty amazing that she actually made it this far,” Yeev said on the Today show. "I'm just super proud that she actually made it."

For Yeev, it sounds like she understandably has a tough time keeping her nerves in check while watching her daughter. "When she does her routine, I usually hold my breath. I really don’t like to watch it," Yeev told Fox 9 KMSP.

Nearly two years have passed since Suni's dad had his accident. Today, he's still in a wheelchair and is doing electronic stimulation on his legs.

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Last summer, Suni shared how she remembered that fateful day that changed her family and greatly impacted her.

"On the anniversary, I texted him and said, 'Dad, I’m so proud of how far you’ve come and that you’ve come back so strong,'" she told The New York Times. "He is still in a wheelchair, but he can use his hands and he is getting better every day."

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