By Katie Steiner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The countdown is on to the Summer Olympics, where two Minnesota gymnasts will be competing for gold on the U.S. women’s team.

One of them is Suni Lee of St. Paul. She will be the first Hmong-American to compete in the Olympics as a gymnast.

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“I’m so excited, it’s been a dream come true,” said the 18-year-old from her home gym, Midwest Gymnastics in Little Canada. “I’m just really excited to actually be in Tokyo and represent U.S.A.”

(credit: CBS)

During the qualifying competition last month, Lee finished second behind gymnastics superstar Simone Biles in the all-around standing. Another Minnesotan, Grace McCallum of Isanti, was also selected for the team.

“Going into [the qualifier], I was super nervous,” Lee said. “I think competing here and trying to make the team is actually harder than succeeding at the Olympics, so I was very stressed out.”

But Lee overcame the nerves and the stress to execute her routines. Now, she’s focusing on training.

“I’m just trying to focus on staying consistent,” Lee said. “Cleaning up the little things.”

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When competing on the world stage, Lee is aiming to make it to the finals for uneven bars, beam, and the all-around competition.

Lee says her inspiration in life and athletics is her father, who became paralyzed two years ago in a yard work accident.

However, he will not be able to watch his daughter in person at the Olympics, as relatives are not allowed in Japan due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“It’s really hard, especially because my family has done everything for me,” Lee said. “It’s been all of our journey, all of our dream.”

On representing the Hmong community at the Olympics, Lee says it’s a surreal feeling.

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“I never thought that I could be a role model to people,” she said. “So when people tell me that, it’s crazy…it’s just crazy.”

Katie Steiner