Olympic gold medalist Suni Lee says she was pepper-sprayed in racist attack

Race in America

ROGERS, Ark. (NewsNation Now) — American gymnast and Olympic gold medalist Suni Lee said she was the victim of an anti-Asian attack while out with a group of friends in Los Angeles last month.

Lee, the first Hmong American to represent the U.S. in the Olympics, was waiting for an Uber ride with her friends, all of Asian descent, she told PopSugar in an interview. She said a car drove by with people shouting racial slurs like “ching chong” and telling them to “go back to where they came from.”

Then, one of the passengers sprayed her arm with pepper spray before the car drove away, according to Lee.

“I was so mad, but there was nothing I could do or control because they skirted off,” Lee told PopSugar. “I didn’t do anything to them, and having the reputation, it’s so hard because I didn’t want to do anything that could get me into trouble. I just let it happen.”

Attacks against Asian Americans have risen in the U.S. since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition that gathers data on racially motivated attacks related to the pandemic, has received more than 9,000 incident reports from March 19, 2020, through this June.

Lee, an 18-year-old Minnesota native, won gold in the individual all-around at the Tokyo Olympics. She parlayed that success into being cast as a contestant on the 30th season of “Dancing With the Stars.”

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