‘Happy tears’: Lee’s gold sparks joy at home in Minnesota

Japan 2020

St. Paul Olympian Sunisa Lee’s parents Yeev Thoj, left, and John Lee and other family and friends react as they watch Sunisa Lee clinch the gold medal in the women’s Olympic gymnastics all-around at the Tokyo Olympics Thursday, July 29, 2021 in Oakdale, Minn. (Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune via AP)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Family and friends in Minnesota broke into cheers and screams for Sunisa Lee.

She was one of their own, and the 18-year-old gymnast had captured the women’s all-around gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Her triumph delighted all of Minnesota but carried special resonance in the state’s large and close-knit Hmong American community. Dozens of Lee family members and friends gathered to watch the broadcast from Tokyo.

The Hmong fought for the U.S. in Laos during the Vietnam War and many resettled in Minnesota. Her victory sparked an outpouring of pride across the community, where many saw it as an “Only in America” story.

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