Olympic gold medalist Suni Lee suffered a racist pepper spray attack

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Gymnast Suni Lee, who became the first Asian American woman to win the gold medal in the all-around gymnastics at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics delayed by the pandemic, said she was the victim of a recent racially motivated cayenne pepper attack.

Lee, 18, said Pop sugar she was waiting for an Uber ride with friends, who were also all of Asian descent when individuals in a nearby vehicle shouted racist slurs and told the group to “go back to where they came from”, before one of the passengers sprayed pepper on the gymnast’s arm as the car pulled away.

Lee’s rep also confirmed the incident in an email to NBC News Thursday.

“I was so angry, but there was nothing I could do or control because they got around,” Lee said via Pop sugar. “I didn’t do anything to them, and having the reputation it’s so hard because I didn’t want to do anything that could get me in trouble. I just let it happen.

In the Pop sugar Reporting, Lee described her upbringing in St. Paul, Minnesota in a tight-knit Hmong community and sudden fame after becoming the fifth consecutive U.S. gymnast to win all-around gold.

Nonprofit group AAPI Hate, which tracks incidents of discrimination and hatred against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said the recent incident involving Lee and his friends is more common than suggested by previous reports, according to data.

The group said it documented 3,800 incidents targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders from March 2020 to February 2021, an increase of 2,600 from the previous year, and nearly 70% of attacks in racial motivation target women.

Russel Jeung, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate and professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University, said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, along with many reported episodes of violence targeting older Asian people, prompted more people to report bullying incidents than in previous years.

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