At 18 years old, Sunisa Lee, a Hmong-American gymnast, will be attending the upcoming Tokyo Olympics the same year she has graduated high school. During the Olympic Trials and with a score of 115.832, Lee finished second behind Simone Biles, the defending champion. When it came to individual events, she placed first at the uneven bars apparatus. Lee stated that competing at the Olympics is a “dream come true” and is excited for her journey to begin.
Yul Moldauer is a 24-year-old gymnast who has also made it into Team USA this year. He was born in Seoul, Korea; and adopted by his American parents before he turned one. Moldauer graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in communications while training for senior gymnastics. He was the second-highest all-around scorer with 168.6 points and was in the top 3 for apparatus at the Olympic Trials. Moldauer had also scored first in parallel bars.
Using Their Voices for Good
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated hate crimes and discrimination against Asians. Both gymnasts, Yul Moldauer and Sunisa Lee, have experienced the negative impact of the growing xenophobic and anti-Asian sentiment: facing hate for solely being Asian. However, this has not stopped them from achieving their dreams and has only pushed them to strive further. Moldauer and Lee have been continuously using their platforms to highlight Asian voices amidst the increasing hate and negativity.
Sakura Kokumai is a 28-year-old karateka who will be competing in one of the Olympics’ newest additions, karate. She was born in Hawaii but went to Waseda University in Japan for her studies. At the 2019 Pan American Games held in Lima, Peru; Sakura Kokumai won gold in the women's individual kata event. Earlier this year, Kokumai was the victim of an anti-Asian hate crime during a training session. She captured the incident on video and posted it onto her Instagram page. In the video, a man is seen and heard to be screaming violent threats at her. Fortunately, the perpetrator has been arrested after the incident. In the caption of this post, Kokumai stresses the idea of community and protecting one another. She has been vocal about the #StopAsianHate movement and has continued to raise awareness about this important topic.
Indian American table tennis player, Nikhil Kumar, will be competing for the US team at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Kumar started playing table tennis when he was five years old and competed in his first major tournament at age eight. Furthermore, he is one of the few left handed players on the US team. At age 14, he qualified for the World Table Tennis Championships for men and was a finalist in the singles event. Recently, at age 17, Kumar became the second youngest U.S. table tennis player to qualify for the Olympic games in 2020.
Historically Low Representation
There has historically been very little Asian representation in the Summer Olympics. The harmful model minority myth burdens the Asian American community in the field of sports, where Asian Americans face immense pressure to succeed because of this misconstrued belief. Ever since the first Olympics, people of color have been fighting for the chance to represent the US in their respective sport. While other minority groups have seen more success in gaining recognition for their talents, Asian Americans are slowly but surely catching up.