Sunisa Lee, also known as Suni Lee, says she was recently a victim of a racially motivated attack.
Lee, 18, opened up about the attack in a new interview with PopSugar. The U.S. Olympic gold medalist of Hmong descent said she was out with her girlfriends, all of Asian heritage, when a group in a vehicle drove by yelling racial slurs. A passenger in the vehicle allegedly shot pepper spray at Lee, which caught her on the arm.
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“I was so mad, but there was nothing I could do or control because they skirted off,” Lee 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.”
Lee also touched on the support she received after speaking honestly about her online experiences with hate speech.
“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,” Lee explained.
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“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,” she said. “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, an artistic gymnast, won the All-Around god medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and also earned a silver and bronze medal in other categories.