Olympic Gold Medallist Reveals She Was ‘Pepper Sprayed In Racist Attack’

by : Emily Brown on : 12 Nov 2021 11:52
Olympic Gold Medallist Reveals She Was 'Pepper Sprayed In Racist Attack'Alamy

Olympic gold medallist Sunisa Lee has said she was pepper-sprayed in a racist attack in Los Angeles. 

Lee, who made history this summer as the first US Olympic athlete from the Hmong ethnic group, said the incident took place a few weeks ago while she was waiting with friends for an Uber to pick them up after a night out.


The 18-year-old gymnast was in the city to film Dancing with the Stars after she became the first Asian-American woman to win gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Recalling the incident to Pop Sugar, per BBC News, Lee explained a group in a car drove past her and her friends, who were all of Asian heritage, and told them to ‘go back where they came from’.

One of the passengers in the car then sprayed Lee’s arm with pepper spray before the driver sped from the scene, she said.


Lee described herself as being ‘so mad’ at the attack, but said there was ‘nothing [she] could do or control because they skirted off.’

She continued: ‘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 gymnast comes from St. Paul, Minnesota, with her parents having immigrated to the US from Laos. The attack against her comes amid a dramatic rise in attacks on Asian Americans which prompted US President Joe Biden to sign a law that aims to address the issue earlier this year.


Signed in May, the legislation aimed to make the reporting of hate crimes more accessible at both the local and state levels, directed the Department of Justice to designate someone to expedite the review of hate crimes related to coronavirus and authorised funding for state and local governments to conduct crime-reduction programmes.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University and went on to contribute to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming Senior Journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news, trending stories and longer form features.

Topics: News, Gymnastics, Los Angeles, Now, Olympics


BBC News
  1. BBC News

    US Olympian Sunisa Lee 'pepper sprayed in racist attack'