US Gold Medalist: Racists Pepper-Sprayed Me

Suni Lee recounts incident in interview
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 11, 2021 5:40 PM CST
Updated Nov 12, 2021 12:15 AM CST
US Olympian: Racists in Car Pepper-Sprayed Me
Suni Lee competes on the balance beam during the women's U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials Friday, June 25, 2021, in St. Louis.   (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

(Newser) – Suni Lee is an Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics and a hero in the Hmong community of Minnesota as a result. But in an interview with Pop Sugar, the 18-year-old reveals that she's also the target of the same abuse directed at other Asian-Americans. Lee recounts to the site a recent incident in which she and a group of female friends, all of Asian descent, were waiting for an Uber to pick them up after a night out. A car drove by, and its occupants yelled slurs such as "ching chong" and told the young women to go back where they came from. Most disturbingly, Lee says one of the passengers sprayed pepper spray at them, which hit her arm.

"I was so mad, but there was nothing I could do or control because they skirted off," she says. "I didn't do anything to them, and ... it's so hard because I didn't want to do anything that could get me into trouble. I just let it happen." The incident comes amid a wave of attacks on Asian-Americans. USA Today notes that another Olympian, Sakura Kokumai, who competes in karate, endured a man shouting at her for being Chinese as she trained at a park in Southern California in April. Kokumai is Japanese-American. In that incident, an 18-year-old man was arrested and charged with making threats. (Read more Olympians stories.)

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