Olympic gold medalist Suni Lee says she was targeted in a racist attack last month, telling PopSugar that she was pepper-sprayed while out with a group of friends in Los Angeles.
The gymnast, who was the first Hmong American to represent the United States in the Olympics and won gold in the individual all-around, said she was waiting for a ride with her friends, who were all of Asian descent, when a car drove by with people shouting racial slurs. One of the passengers then pepper-sprayed her arm, Lee said, before the car drove away.
“I was so mad, but there was nothing I could do or control because they skirted off,” Lee told PopSugar as part of a cover story this week. “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.”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-Asian hate crimes have risen in the U.S. Stop AAPI Hate, which gathers data on racially motivated attacks in relation to the pandemic, received more than 9,000 incident reports from March 2020 and through this past June.
Lee, 18, is currently a freshman at Auburn University.