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Sunisa Lee of Team United States competes on balance beam during the Women's All-Around Final on day six of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

When Sunisa "Suni" Lee stepped up to the mat at this year's Olympics, she thought of her father's pep talks even as he watched from thousands of miles away. Last week, she won her first Olympic gold in the individual all-around event.

The big picture: John Lee put his faith in her from the start, building a balance beam when they couldn't afford one so she could keep training. The 18-year-old made history this year when she became the first Hmong American to be named to a U.S. Olympic team.

  • On Thursday, Suni Lee retweeted a video of her family reacting to her win with the note: "the people [I] do it all for."
  • "There’s no word that can express this right now," her dad said on the Today Show after her win.
    • "I’m glad I built her that beam," he added.
    • When he sees her next, he's going to tell her how proud he is, he said. "I want to tell her team that no matter what, you all support her and I want to tell Simone that she truly is the GOAT because she let my baby girl bring the gold medal."

Though Lee's family couldn't attend the Olympics themselves, her dad's presence in the crowd at the Olympic trials was a special moment — it was only the second time he'd watched Lee compete in person since a 2019 accident paralyzed him from the chest down.

  • The years after his accident were rough on Lee and her family. In 2020, she broke her foot, battled a COVID-19 scare and lost her aunt and uncle.
  • But she didn't give up, pushing herself through the pain leading up to Tokyo.
Tokyo results:
What she's saying:
  • Pep talks from her father, who got a computer just so he could watch her compete, continue to motivate Lee, she told People earlier this month: "[He tells me] to go out there and do my best and to just do what I do."
  • Representing Hmong Americans is also an inspiration. It "means a lot to the Hmong community ... and to just be an inspiration to other Hmong people [means] a lot to me too," she said, per the Sahan Journal.
Previous competitive record...
  • 2021 Olympic trials: Lee came in first on the uneven bars and balance beam competitions, clinching second place in the all-around behind Simone Biles.
  • 2021 U.S. Gymnastic Championships: Lee won the silver behind Biles in the all-around and balance beam. She overtook Biles on uneven bars, winning gold.
  • 2019 World Championships: Lee was a member of Team USA, which beat Russia and Italy to win gold.
Suni Lee competes on the uneven bars during the women's competition of the 2021 U.S. Gymnastics Olympic trials on June 27 in St. Louis, Mo. Photo: Carmen Mandato via Getty Images
Suni Lee competes on the balance beam during the Senior Women's 2021 Winter Cup on Feb. 27 in Indianapolis. Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Go deeper: Asian American Olympians face racism at home

Editor's note: This story has been updated with results.

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Aug 7, 2021 - Sports

Winners and losers of the Summer Games

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Naomi Baker/Getty Images

The Tokyo Games were a wake-up call for the mental health of Olympic athletes and a groundbreaking event for the LGBTQ community — but a big loss for NBC and anyone who wanted Russia to actually get punished for the doping scandal.

11 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

11 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."