Sunisa Lee was standing in the middle of Ariake Gymnastics Centre, standing on the verge of Olympic glory, standing 90 seconds from fulfilling a goal that seemed impossible from her first tumbles as a 6-year-old daughter of immigrants in Minnesota until, well, about 48 hours ago.
John Lee was sitting half a world away watching his 18-year-old daughter on television, sitting in the wheelchair that has mostly confined him since an accident left him partially paralyzed, sitting in the middle of a watch party for the local Hmong community where moments like this — Olympic greatness — simply don’t happen.
They were separated, father and daughter. Yet, somehow, they couldn’t have been closer.
“This,” Suni Lee said, a gold medal draped around her neck after coming through on floor and winning the women’s all-around competition, “is our dream.”
It was an improbable one. Oh, Suni had talent from Day 1, but what did her family know about elite gymnastics? Besides, she said, within the Hmongs exists a cultural hesitation to push toward big goals, to even step too far outside their close-knit families.