Sunisa Lee Overcame Tragic Accident That Left Dad Paralyzed | 22 Words

At the age of eighteen, Sunisa Lee claimed the gold meal this week in the all-around women's final at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after overcoming a tragic accident that left her dad paralyzed.

Sunisa is the daughter of Laotian refugees who fled the country in the wake of the Vietnam War, making her the first Hmong-American to represent the United States at the Games.

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Her father was paralyzed in a freak accident in 2019, leaving him in a wheelchair. But this didn't stop her parents, who sadly couldn't come to the Olympics due to COVID-19 restrictions, cheering her on as she was announced the winner.

The gymnast's parents - Houa John Lee and Yeev Thoj - moved to Minnesota from Laos craving the American Dream. But during the Vietnam war, 50,000 Hmong civilians were killed, leaving any remaining Hmong citizens to flee for their safety, as per the Daily Mail.

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Sunisa's family themselves talked about their childhood saying they were only kids when they ended up in refugee camps in Thailand.

"When the U.S. pulled out of Laos, the war wasn't over," her father, a Navy veteran, explained. "People had to go to Thailand for their safety, and for a chance to have a better life."

"We know they did it for a reason, so they could be safe and their kids could have a good life," the gymnast said of her grandparents' reasons for fleeing. 'It's something very cool for my generation to know they did that for us. And it was all worth it."

Sunisa told The New York Times: "Once I started, I just couldn't stop. It looked so fun, and I wanted to try it myself."

Her dad even built her a wooden balance beam when they couldn't afford a real one so she could practice at home. As she got older, he began betting that if she won competitions, he'd buy her things. So, at the age of twelve, he betted that if she won, he'd buy her an iPhone, later selling his truck when she claimed her victory.

"When Suni started competing as an elite, I traveled with her almost everywhere,' he told ESPN. "I always talked to her before the competition, and sometimes I'd be hard on her and she'd get mad. When Suni's mad, she focuses a little better."

But, surprisingly, she's still managed to claim gold even after a tragic accident in 2019 when her dad fell to the ground trimming a neighbors tree branches, suffering a severe spinal cord injury which resulted in him being in a wheelchair.

He insists that his daughter gives him strength, even though he's still paralyzed from the waist down.

"Before my injury, I was active and athletic and I fixed everything around the house,' he said. 'I can't do any of that now, and it's hard. But when I get so angry at myself, I look at Sunisa and think about what she has had to go through to get to where she's at, and she inspires me."

"It's really hard because it's been all of our dreams and for them to not even be able to go to the Olympics and watch is something that is so heartbreaking," Sunisa admitted to People about her family not being with her.

Congratulations, Sunisa and the rest of Team USA!