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Who Are U.S. Olympic Gymnast Suni Lee’s Parents?

“I was thinking of my dad the whole time ... I knew that he would be so proud," Suni Lee said after her first Olympic triumph in Tokyo.

By Joe Dziemianowicz
Meet Suni Lee | Paris 2024 | NBC

Suni Lee is going back to the Olympics, alongside Simone Biles, Jordan Chiles, Jade Carey and Hezly Rivera on the U.S. womens gymnastics team at the 2024 Paris Games.

Lee, who won the all-around gold medal at the Tokyo Olympic games, became emotional addressing the crowd when the team was announced at the Target Center in Minneapolis on Sunday night. 

I was just reminded of my goals every day and constantly surrounded by people who never let me give up, the champion gymnast said, according to USA Today. "I can't wait to be in Paris."

Everything to Know about Suni Lee's Parents Yeev Thoj and John Lee

Two people who’ve always had her back and supported her every step and flip along the way are her devoted mom and dad.

Suni, 21, was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota and has five siblings, according to NBCOlympics.com. Her mother, Yeev Thoj, and her longtime partner, John Lee, immigrated to the United States from Laos.

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John isn’t Suni’s biological father, but the two share a very close bond. She considers John to be her dad. While her given name at birth was Sunisa Phabsomphou, she began using the surname Lee as a teenager.  

By then, John's support to Suni's pursuit of gymnastics was already clear. At age 6, Suni formally began gymnastics training and her dad constructed a balance beam so she could practice at home.

John Lee (R), Sunisa Lee's father, and Yeev Thoj smile.

“I couldn’t afford a real beam,” he told TODAY in 2021. “So I built one.”

In the same interview, John credited Yeev Thoj’s athleticism for a part in Suni’s super success. “When I was younger I used to do flips off the wall,” he said. “But I think I think her gymnastic skills … are from my wife's side.”

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In 2019 John was paralyzed from the chest down after he fell off a ladder in a tree-trimming mishap. The accident occurred just before that year's national championships in Kansas City. Despite the challenging turn of events, his commitment to Suni’s gymnastics pursuit never faltered.

"She almost didn't go because I was in surgery. Her and her coach came over and I woke up and said, 'You worked so hard for it, just go,'" John told CBS Minnesota about the aftermath of the accident. She ended up finishing in second and carried that same determination with her to Tokyo in 2021. She'll look to do likewise when she competes in Paris.

John Lee raises his arm while wearing a Team Suni shirt.

Suni Lee’s Olympic success

At Tokyo 2020 (the games were held in 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic), Suni won the women’s all-around title. In doing so, she clinched the fifth consecutive individual title for Team USA and became the first Asian-American to capture the gold medal.

Suni also played a key role in the USA’s silver medal win in the team event and won bronze in the uneven bars event.

Suni Lee competes at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials.

At the time of those triumphs, Suni had her eye on the prize -- and her mind on her father. “I was thinking of my dad the whole time,” she said, and to do it for him because I knew that he would be so proud.

Now, as Suni prepares to travel to the City of Light to represent Team USA again, Yeev Thoj and John Lee are surely beaming with pride again.

Don't Miss

Watch live coverage of the Opening Ceremony on Friday, July 26, on NBC and Peacock beginning at 12 p.m. ET. Telemundo will provide Spanish-language coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET. Primetime coverage starts at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT on NBC and Peacock.

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