Suni Lee is a gold medal Olympian and a role model for a new generation of girls who want to follow in her footsteps.
Lee, who won the gold medal in the women’s gymnastics individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympics, reunited with her family Thursday on TODAY and was moved to tears after she watched a video of an aspiring 8-year-old gymnast who said Lee is her inspiration.
“I do this because I love it. My hero in gymnastics is Suni Lee,” Mila Soung said.
“She's part of the Hmong community, which we’re a part of, too,” her father, Frankie Soung, added in the clip. “It really opens her eyes like, ‘Hey, look, there's another Hmong girl on TV competing for a gold medal,’ which just makes the dream that much more achievable.”
“I’m crying,” Lee said after watching the video.
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Hoda asked the gymnast why the clip brought her to tears.
“Just because I’ve worked for it so long and the amount of bad days is just all worth it and for people to say that I’m an inspiration is just something that’s so incredible,” Lee said.
Lee, who also won a silver in team competition and bronze in the uneven bars, became the first Hmong American gymnast to qualify for the Olympics. She said she has a tough time wrapping her head around the idea that people can look at her to motivate themselves, while noting her parents played a vital role in her reaching her Olympic dreams.
“It’s just crazy that people look up to me like that, and I wouldn’t be here without them. They sacrificed their life for me, so I’m really, really grateful for them, and I’m super proud of myself for just not giving up.”
Lee’s father once built a balance beam that she used in the family backyard.
"I grew up going on that beam," Lee told Hoda Kotb last week on TODAY following her all-around gold medal.
"If I wasn't in the gym I was always outside on the beam doing extra things because I didn't want to get behind or I always wanted to get better. It was something we kind of cherished because whenever I was bored, I would just go outside and he would watch me and try and coach me even though he didn't know what he was talking about."