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

AFP , Friday 12 Nov 2021

American Olympic gymnastics gold medalist Sunisa Lee said in an interview with media outlet PopSugar that she was recently pepper sprayed in an anti-Asian attack while out with friends in Los Angeles.

Sunisa Lee
USA s Sunisa Lee competes in balance beam on the way to Olympic all-around gymnastics gold at the Tokyo Games in July 2021 (AFP)

Lee said in the interview posted Wednesday that she and friends were waiting for an Uber ride when a car drove by with its occupants shouting slurs and that she was pepper sprayed on her arm as the car sped away.

"I was so mad, but there was nothing I could do or control because they skirted off," said Lee, who is of Hmong descent.

"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."

Lee won women's all-around gymnastics gold at the Tokyo Games this year, succeeding defending champion Simone Biles after she withdrew.

The 18-year-old, who also won team silver and individual bronze on uneven bars at the Tokyo Games, is currently appearing on ABC television's "Dancing With the Stars" competition program, and has committed to competing for Auburn University in Alabama in gymnastics.

The United States experienced a surge in anti-Asian violence in 2020 according to FBI statistics, with activists attributing that to the rhetoric of former president Donald Trump who characterized Covid-19 as the "China virus."

In April, US karate Olympian Sakura Kokumai, a Japanese American, described being targeted as she trained in a Southern California park by a man who hurled racist epithets.

US Olympic snowboard champion Chloe Kim said in April that she receives racist abuse via social media on a daily basis.

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