American gold medalist inspires Hmong community

Japan 2020

Suni Lee is first Hmong American to compete in Olympics

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Suni Lee just won the all-around gold medal in gymnastics at the Tokyo Olympics, and the 18-year-old champion is already inspiring those among the Hmong community.

She was the first Hmong American to compete in the Olympic games. She’s overcome many personal challenges, including when her dad was in a freak accident that left him paralyzed days before she had a big competition. Those challenges are part of what makes her strong-willed.

The Minnesota teen has fans around the world, including in the Portland area.

Charlotte Moua, who is 8, got a personal video from Suni that encouraged her to dream big.

“I want to be in the Olympics because Suni Lee is my favorite gymnast and when I watch her videos, she makes me want to practice harder and dream bigger,” Charlotte told KOIN 6 News while training in Troutdale.

Charlotte Moua, 8, and her mother Punkie Moua are inspired by gymast Suni Lee, July 30, 2021 (KOIN)

Her mom, Punkie Moua, said Suni’s success and encouragement are huge.

“This is huge because she’s the first,” Punkie said. “We are a tribe and don’t have our own country, so coming here took a lot of sacrifice from our parents and grandparents to be here in the United States of America, and for her to achieve this is such a high honor.”

Punkie, who was a gymnast herself, said Suni is an inspiration for more than her daughter. She inspires the entire Hmong community and so many others to see what it means to overcome obstacles and dream big.

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