Minnesota Olympic-hopeful Sunisa Lee competing with her father on her mind

Lee has finished second to Simone Biles twice since August.
Publish date:
sunisa lee

Sunisa Lee (left) with Simone Biles (right).

Minnesota could be on the map for a number of reasons during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, with Lakeville swimmer Regan Smith and St. Paul gymnast Sunisa Lee both hoping to qualify with Team USA. 

But for Lee, she's grinding through qualifying competition while her father, 49-year-old Houa John Lee, is going through the recovery process after he was paralyzed from the chest down in a tree trimming accident. 

According to a GoFundMe campaign, Lee was helping a friend trim a tree on Aug. 4 when he fell, suffering a complete spinal cord injury, fractured ribs and a broken wrist. He then developed life-threatening pneumonia. 

It's too early to tell if Lee will walk again, but the U.S. Navy veteran's – he served in the Persian Gulf War from 1990-94 – main goal is to get back to work to support his family and "attend the 2020 Summer Olympics" with Sunisa Lee, whom the fundraiser describes as an "elite gymnast" hoping to make the Olympic team. 

"Whether she makes the team or not, John is determined to go to Tokyo, Japan to support the US Women’s gymnastics team with his daughter," the fundraiser says. 

Sunisa Lee finished second to American superstar Simone Biles in the U.S. World Championships in August, and she followed that performance up with another second-place finish to Biles at the world team selection camp in September. 

“What’s impressed me the most, I think, has been Suni,” Biles said of Lee in an interview with NBC Sports. “She’s only 16 years old. She’s been through a long year, and to come out and put up the three events and the scores she did is pretty crazy." 

On Thursday, Sunisa finished eighth in the world championships all-around compeition, with Biles winning gold for a fifth time. She'll get another chance to shine this weekend as she competes in the bars and floor exercise. 

The online fundraiser for the Lee family will help pay for medical expenses, lost wages, a fitted car and housing adjustments to combat John's paralysis. 

Next Up


Alleged drunk driver crashes into Chisago Co. deputy's squad car

The deputy was taken to the hospital afterwards.

Karl-Anthony Towns

Karl-Anthony Towns has lost 7 family members to COVID-19

The Timberwolves forward "hasn't been in a good place" since his mother died last April.

Leah Ottman, aka LOTT

Acclaimed Minneapolis violinist and singer Leah Ottman dies at 33

She also performed as LOTT, the name of her solo project.

Target gift card

Holiday shopping? Target gift cards are discounted this weekend

You have to be a Target Circle member, but that's free to join.

vote, vote now

MN Supreme Court dismisses attempt to block election certification

Another legal defeat for Republicans challenging the election.

prison, Rush City cell block

Another Minnesota prison inmate dies after COVID-19 diagnosis

The virus has killed at least six Minnesota inmates.

leech lake band of ojibwe sign

11,760 acres of land wrongly taken from Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe will be returned

The Senate and now the House have passed a bill that effectively returns the land. It's now headed for the president's signature.

Karl-Anthony Towns

Timberwolves release first half of 2020-21 regular season schedule

The second half of the schedule will be announced at a later date.


Screen Shot 2020-01-30 at 6.25.12 PM

High 'Opes podcast: Jared Allen: From NFL great to Olympic hopeful

Vikings great Jared Allen talks about his goals of making the Olympics as a curling star.

Whitecaps star is first woman to compete in NHL skills competition

She finished less than a second behind the winner in the speed contest.

Sarah Reasoner

St. Paul woman competing to be World's Strongest Firefighter

She's competing at Arnold Schwarzenegger's event in California.

Jessie Diggins says angry MN driver nearly killed her

She was roller skiing in Afton when she encountered a bully in an SUV.