Asia

Sunisa Lee biography: 13 things about Hmong gymnast born in St. Paul, Minnesota

Born Sunisa Phabsomphou, Sunisa Lee is an artistic gymnast of Hmong descent. Her nick name is Suni and she is 5’0″ tall.

Both of Lee’s biological parents are Hmong. They immigrated to the United States from Laos when they were children.

Lee was born and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA. Here are 13 more things about her:

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  1. In 2005, her mother Yeev Thoj met U.S. Navy veteran John Lee, who became her stepfather. She was named after her mother’s favorite Thai soap opera actress Sunisa Jett. She later decided to change her last name to his although John and her mother are not legally married. He plays an essential role in her career as a gymnast.
  2. She is the stepsister of Jonah Lee and Shyenne Lee, who are John’s children from his first wife. John and Thoj have three more children together namely Evionn Lee, Lucky Lee and Noah Lee.
  3. In 2009, she started taking gymnastics lessons at the Midwest Gymnastics Center in Little Canada, Minnesota.
  4. In 2010, she won the state all-around title in Minnesota, which was her second meet.
  5. Taken in 2011, a family video shows her and John backflipping together on a beach in Florida, USA.
  6. In 2015, she won one individual gold medal at the Hopes Championships.
  7. In 2017, she won one individual silver medal at the International Gymnix. Her team also won gold. That year, she was named to the U.S. junior national gymnastics team.
  8. In 2018, she won one individual gold medal at the U.S. Classic and another individual gold medal at the U.S. National Gymnastics Championships and her team won gold at the Pacific Rim Championships.
  9. She won three individual gold medals at the 2019 City of Jesolo Trophy where her team won gold and an individual gold medal at the 2019 Worlds Team Selection Camp. On August 4, 2019, she was set to leave for the U.S. National Gymnastics Championships in Kansas City, Missouri, USA, her first senior national championships, when John fell from a ladder while helping a friend cut a tree branch, which left him paralyzed from the chest down. She went on to win gold on uneven bars and was runner-up to Simone Biles in the all-around. In September 2019, she was named to the U.S. team that won gold at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany.
  10. Amid the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the protests stemming from George Floyd‘s controversial death in Minnesota, she continued training while staying at home and studying in St. Paul without any competition. That year, her maternal aunt died after contracting COVID-19. The aunt’s husband also contracted COVID-19 and recovered but died from a heart attack 13 days after his wife’s death. Also that year, she and her sister Shyenne got their driver’s licenses.
  11. In June 2021, she graduated from South St. Paul High School in South St. Paul, Minnesota.
  12. She was 18 years old when she won gold in the women’s artistic gymnastics individual all-around at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 29, 2021, making her the first Hmong American to win an Olympic title. In honor of her Olympic success, 41st Minnesota governor Tim Walz and 55th St. Paul mayor Melvin Carter declared July 30, 2021 to be Sunisa Lee Day.
  13. She is expected to graduated from Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, USA in 2025.

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