If the dozens of articles in magazines that have nothing to do with the sports press were not enough proof of the “obsession” – as he claims The Independent– media by Sunisa Lee, just take a look at something as Gen Z as herself: the evolution of her digital influence. In just one week, Lee has tripled her number of followers on Instagram to one million three hundred thousand and has changed the description on her social network profile up to two times: from the ‘winner of an Olympic silver’ to the current ‘winner of an Olympic gold ‘. In TikTok, which is proving in these Games to be the flagship app of the generational change represented by the competitors themselves, has gone from 150,000 followers to more than one million thanks to the choreographies starring one of the great stars of Tokyo 2020.
At just 18 years old, the one who was an admirer and later companion of the great Simone Biles has now also become his heir as gymnastics queen thanks to the three medals achieved in Tokyo, among which an impressive gold in the final stands out. female individual. “Congratulations, princess, you have embroidered it. Olympic champion, I am more than proud of you ”, was the congratulations that Biles dedicated to her, a priori great favorite in the category and who decided to withdraw from the competition to protect her mental health, giving rise to one of the episodes most commented of the last month.
The Olympic medals now represent the confirmation of a meteoric projection and that it has been on the verge of going to waste on different occasions, beyond injuries, accumulating the young woman a history of especially tragic setbacks. In 2019, just days before her participation in the national championships that elevated her from promise to reality, her father, John Lee, was paralyzed after falling off a ladder while pruning a tree. “He didn’t want to compete because he believed he was going to die when he was in the hospital. He told me to go, that was what he wanted. So I did it. Now I realize that if he had not pushed me to do it, I would not be in the situation I am in now ”, reflected the gymnast in The New York Times, who has stated that he was very close to withdrawal. Although John Lee is not her biological father, Sunisa wanted to compete under the surname of her stepfather, who “sacrificed everything” for her to succeed in the discipline. A few months later, the coronavirus took the lives of two of his closest relatives, his uncle and his aunt, with whom he spent a good part of his childhood. His last goodbye was via a Zoom video call.
Lee has also become the first nomadic Hmong American from Southeast Asia to win a medal at the Games. His parents came to the city of Saint Paul, in the state of Minnesota, in the 1970s, fleeing from Laos, a country in which after the Vietnam War the Hmong were treated as third-class citizens. The city has the largest tribal community in the United States – made up of about 70,000 people, most of them refugees – and for decades they have been victims of poverty – 60% belong to the lower class – and systematic racism. reported by the gymnast herself. A situation aggravated since May 2020 by the murder in Minneapolis of George floyd at the hands of the police officer Derek Chauvin, sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison. The former wife of the agent, Kellie Chauvin, who filed for divorce after learning the facts, is Hmong and had also come to the city as a refugee. As well as another of the policemen present at the crime scene, Tou Thao, who will go to trial in March 2022 for collaborating and being an accessory to the crime of involuntary manslaughter.
This connection to the case led to several Hmong-owned establishments being vandalized during the nights of riots and protests that took place in the city during the following days, and even some houses were raided. A situation described as “terrifying” by Lee’s family and that the athlete regretted for the loss of what she had achieved to date: “I was trying to make the Hmong community better known. After what happened, I felt that it was a setback, “he alleged in the US edition of Elle. “People hate us for no reason. It would be great to show them that we are much more than what they say ”.
Much of the Minnesota Hmong community gathered with Lee’s family, wearing T-shirts with the slogan Team Suni (Team Suni), to witness with them the historic achievement of the young woman. Once demonstrating the integrative capacity of sport – and, above all, of the Olympic golds – the authorities no longer only endorse its successes, but Governor Tim Walz hastened to announce that, to commemorate the medal, on 31 December July will be known thereafter as ‘Sunisa Lee Day’ in the state. A milestone that goes beyond the purely sports to break with historical prejudices in a traditionally macho community that does not offer women the same options as male children. “For decades, the narrative has been that a ‘good’ daughter should not stray too far from home, and the pressure to live up to these expectations is often overwhelming. So for Hmong women and girls of all generations, Lee’s victory serves as a reminder of what can be achieved by exploiting the full potential, ”writes journalist Angela Vang in the magazine. Time, remembering how, generally, adolescents are not allowed to practice sports or any other extracurricular activities.
– Adam Rippon (@AdamRippon) August 1, 2021
In addition to her talent and gymnastic aptitudes, Lee’s speech, charisma and style has helped her turn the situation around and also conquer the heads of fashion and trends, which already raise her as the next generational icon despite the fact that neither She has even completed her first year as a college student. They did not go unnoticed, for example, the false eyelashes or the manicure that she wore to win the gold, betting on acrylic extensions decorated with the Olympic rings that a salon – also run by Hmong descendants – gave her in her hometown as an amulet of luck. “We wanted her to feel loved before going to Tokyo. When we saw the images we said, those are our nails! ”, Declared the owner of the premises, Amy Vang, to Fox. A nail art that aroused the admiration of dozens of followers on social networks, among which were well-known actresses like Reese Witherspoon or Kerry Washington.
If Sunisa Lee has made something clear, it is that the weight of pressure and the expectations of an entire country are not going to affect her career path or self-esteem. “We don’t owe anything to anyone. We do not owe you a gold medal, you are not the one who is there competing, “he confessed at a press conference in Tokyo in response to a question about the situation of his partner Simone Biles. An incomparable legacy that, both inside and outside the stadium, seems to be in the best of hands. If the queen is dead, which remains to be seen, long live the queen.