WASHINGTON — Sunisa Lee became the fifth straight American woman to claim the Olympic women's gymnastics all-around title on Thursday and made Summer Games history in the process.
Lee is an 18-year-old from Minnesota and was the first American of Hmong descent to make a U.S. Olympic team. She is also the third straight woman of color to grab Olympic gold for the Americans, joining Simone Biles in 2016 and Gabby Douglas in 2012.
Shortly after Lee's historic win on Thursday morning (Thursday night in Tokyo), there was a spike in searches for "what is Hmong American" and other related topics, according to data from Google Trends.
According to the Hmong American Center, the Hmong migrated from southern China in the nineteenth century to the mountainous areas of Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. However, during the Vietnam War, many Hmong helped the U.S. CIA and were later forced to flee their home after the communist's victory.
Following the war, and after spending time in refugee camps, many settled in a third country including Australia, France, Canada, Germany and the United States.
The 2010 U.S. Census found there were about 260,000 Hmong Americans living in the United States, with the majority living in the states of California, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The Minnesota Historical Society said that more than 66,000 Hmong lived in Minnesota during the 2010 Census, and most lived in or near the Twin Cities.
The Hmong American Center says that the majority of Hmong have become U.S. citizens. The center explains that Hmong culture is all about family saying many Hmong moved to join families, relatives and clan leaders.
In Hmong culture, last names are what indicate “clans,” and within “clans” there are elders who are considered “leaders.”
Lee edged Rebeca Andrade of Brazil in an entertaining and hotly contested final while defending champion Simone Biles watched from the stands.
Lee's total of 57.433 points was just enough to top Andrade, who earned the first gymnastics all-around medal by a Latin American athlete but missed out on gold when she stepped out of bounds twice during her floor routine. Russian gymnast Angelina Melnikova earned bronze two days after leading ROC to gold in the team final.
"It feels super crazy, I definitely didn't think I would be here in this moment with a gold medal," Lee said. "I haven't really let it sink in yet because I feel like it's not real life."