Newly crowned all-around gymnastics champ Suni Lee celebrated her triumph by placing her Tokyo Olympics gold medal around her paralyzed father’s neck during an emotional reunion Thursday in the Big Apple with her proud family.
“Amazing, I haven’t seen them in so long,” Lee said on NBC’s “Today” show. “To see them here with me in New York is absolutely amazing. I feel so proud. I’m so happy to see them.”
The 18-year-old Minnesotan — who also won silver in the team final and bronze in the uneven bars — gave her dad, Houa John Lee, a big hug as she placed the medal around his neck.
“Oh my God. I never thought I would ever get one of these, and she did it,” John said. “She got it, she brought it home.”
He added: “You did great, you did it! I’m so proud of her.”
Also on hand were Lee’s mother, Yeev Thoj, and two siblings, Jonah and Shyenne.
Lee, who has said her family and Minnesota’s Hmong community played a major role in her success, also placed her silver medal around her mom’s neck.
“It’s like happy tears,” Thoj said on the show. “Just thinking of all the hard work that she has done in the past four years and every time she has a bad day and she comes home crying, and that kind of hurts me, and so to see her with the gold medal, it just makes me happy.”
John later shared a photo of himself sporting all of his daughter’s medals on Facebook.
“Here you go. The whole collections,” he captioned the image. “Now we can really say we did it or should say SHE DID IT.”
John has said that his daughter, who placed second behind Simone Biles in the national championships, almost didn’t go to Tokyo because he was in surgery. He was partially paralyzed after falling from a ladder in 2019.
Lee seized the moment during the absence of Biles, 24, the former defending Olympics all-around champion and four-time gold winner, who pulled out of the competition to focus on her mental health.
Biles removed herself from the team final on July 27 after a shaky performance on vault during the first rotation.
She later said she was suffering from the “twisties,” which cause a gymnast to lose a sense of where they are in the air and often leads to dangerous landings.
Biles later decided to compete in the balance beam and earned a bronze medal after keeping fresh at a Japanese gym.
Towards the end of the Lee family’s interview, John spoke about his role in kickstarting his daughter’s gymnastics career by building her a wooden beam in the backyard that still stands today.
“That beam was built out of a piece of wood. I never thought I’d be wearing one of these (medals) because of that beam,” John said.
“It’s just incredible. And I love that beam now.”
His daughter plans to start her freshman year at Auburn University, where she’ll join the Tigers gymnastics team.