By Marielle Mohs

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) —St. Paul Native Suni Lee won individual gold during the women’s all-around competition in Tokyo. She started competing at 5 a.m. Minnesota time and had the gold medal around her neck three hours later.

Lee’s win comes a day after defending champion Simone Biles withdrew from the competition to focus on her mental well-being. Lee, who performs one of the most difficult bar routines in the world, is the fifth consecutive American woman to win the all-around title during the summer games.

In the Twin Cities, a group of more than 300 family and friends cheered together as they watched the competition early Thursday morning. Lee, 18, of St. Paul, is the first Hmong American to compete in the Olympics as a gymnast. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, her family couldn’t travel to watch her in-person.

“We wanted to support her physically,” Lee’s father, John Lee, said, “but to be able to support her with this crowd — of family, of community, of friends, and her fans — it’s worth it.”

Before Suni Lee walked up to the podium to get her gold medal, she found the time to Facetime her sister, and say hello to all her supporters.

While they couldn’t be there in person, the love, joy, energy and tears were all experienced in the room together. They sent all of their love to their daughter from Minnesota to Tokyo.

“All those broken bones, times you missed vacationing with us, it paid off,” Yeev Thoj, Suni Lee’s mother, said. “It finally paid off and she’s a gold medalist. I’m super proud as a mom.”

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Earlier this week, Suni Lee earned a silver medal in the team competition alongside her fellow Minnesota teammate Grace McCallum.

She is slated to compete in the bars finals on Sunday and in the beam finals next week.

Marielle Mohs