Suni Lee Says She Was Hit with Pepper Spray in Recent Racist Attack: 'There Was Nothing I Could Do'

"I was so mad," Olympic gold medalist Suni Lee said of the scare

Sunisa Lee attends The 2021 Met Gala Celebrating In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion
Suni Lee . Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Suni Lee is recounting a racist attack she recently experienced during a night out with friends.

The 18-year-old Olympic gold medalist (and first-ever Hmong American Olympic gymnast) told PopSugar that the incident occurred one week before her interview, published Wednesday. At the end of a night out, Lee and her group of girlfriends, who are all Asian, had been waiting for their Uber when people in a passing car began yelling racist slurs at them. The passengers told women to "go back to where they came from" and someone inside the car sprayed Lee's arm with pepper spray.

Frozen in the moment, Lee said: "I was so mad, but there was nothing I could do or control because they skirted off. 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."

PopSugar added that Lee called her longtime coach Jess Graba after the upsetting ordeal.

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Sunisa Lee
Sunisa Lee. Elsa/Getty Images

The athlete, who is currently competing on Dancing with the Stars, also spoke about mental health and being transparent about needing a break. Reacting to the support she got after coming forward about self-care earlier this month, she said, "When I shared that I was feeling down, so many people reached out and either sent positive messages of encouragement or told me they were feeling similarly and not to feel alone."

"It's okay to feel down sometimes," continued Lee, "but what I've realized is that it's important to express your feelings and ask for help. In the past, I might have pushed on and not acknowledged the state of my mental health. But there's so much power in owning your feelings. It's not weakness, it's actually taking control."

Elsewhere, she stressed, "I definitely don't see myself as an Olympic gold medalist. It's crazy to think that. I still have a hard time letting it sink in."

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