U.S. Olympic gold medalist Sunisa Lee revealed she was pepper-sprayed in a racist attack in Los Angeles.
The gymnast, who won gold in Tokyo this year, told Pop Sugar she was targeted in an anti-Asian attack while she was out with friends a few weeks ago.
Lee said she and friends were waiting for an Uber ride when a car drove past with its occupants shouting slander and that she was pepper-sprayed on her arm when the car sped off.
“I was so crazy, but I couldn’t do or control anything because they left,” said Lee, who this year became the first U.S. Olympic athlete from the Hmong ethnic group.
“I didn’t do anything to them, and having the reputation is so hard because I didn’t want to do anything that could cause me problems. I just let it happen.”
The 18-year-old, who also won team silver and individual bronze on uneven bars at the Tokyo Games, appears on ABC television’s Dancing With the Stars contest program. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Laos and she was born in St Paul, Minnesota.
The United States experienced an increase in anti-Asian violence in 2020 according to FBI statistics, with activists attributing this to the rhetoric of former President Donald Trump, who characterized Covid-19 as the “Chinese virus”.
In April, American karate-Olympic Sakura Kokumai, a Japanese American, described being targeted while she was training in a Southern California park by a man who threw racist epithets.
U.S. Olympic snowboarding champion Chloe Kim said in April that she receives racist abuse through social media every day.