By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Olympic gold medalist and Minnesotan Suni Lee says she was recently pepper sprayed in an anti-Asian attack, and said she felt compelled to use her voice makes a difference.

Lee, who was recently named one of TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People,” talked with POPSUGAR Fitness about the incident, which the reporter said happened a week prior to their conversation.

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Lee told the website that she was out with friends and waiting for their Uber when a car approached them. The group inside the vehicle yelled anti-Asian slurs and told them to “go back to where they came from.” Lee said 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,” she said. “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.”

The man was reportedly arrested for making threats.

Following news of the attack, three Democratic state Sens. Foung Hawj (St. Paul), and Karla Bigham (Cottage Grove) and John Hoffman (Champlin) released a joint statement saying they were appalled by the attack.

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“There is no place for these racially-motivated attacks in our society, and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms,” the statement said.

Lee, a St. Paul native, won the gold medal earlier this year in the all-around competition in the Tokyo Olmypics, serving as a source of inspiration for the Hmong community. She also won a bronze medal in the uneven bars.

Lee was the first Hmong American to compete in the Olympics as a gymnast.

The U.S. has seen a rise in anti-Asian bias crimes, with many attributing misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic with fueling hate incidents.

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