The 18-year-old, who soared and tumbled her way to all-around victory last week, came face-to-face with her father John, mother Yeev, sister Shyenne and brother Jonah for the first time since returning from Tokyo as they joined the gymnastics star live on the Today show.
Suni’s father John, who was paralyzed from the waist down when he fell off a ladder in 2019, days before she was due to compete in the national championships, burst into tears as he laid eyes on his daughter – who then removed her gold medal from around her neck and placed it around his.
‘You did great, you did awesome,’ John, from Minnesota, told his daughter while pulling her into a big hug.
It has been exactly one week since Suni claimed victory in the all-around final – a title that many had expected her teammate Simone Biles to win, before the 24-year-old dropped out of contention amid ongoing struggles with her mental health.
However, it has been far longer since Suni has been able to spend time with her family members, who were forced to watch her Olympic achievements from thousands of miles away after traveling spectators were banned from joining athletes in Tokyo because of fears over COVID-19 safety.
‘[It’s] amazing, I haven’t seen [my dad] in so long,’ Suni said of her emotional reunion with her father, whom she has routinely praised for ‘sacrificing everything’ to make her gymnastics dreams come true.
‘I feel so proud and so happy to see [my family].’
Suni, who claimed three medals in Tokyo – gold in the all-around final, silver in the team final, and bronze on the uneven bars – shares some of her Olympic glory with her other family members, offering up medals to her mother Yeev and brother Jonah, whom she also hasn’t seen in weeks.
After his daughter passed over her historic gold medal – having become the first Hmong-American gymnast to compete for Team USA at the Olympics – John expressed his pride and joy over Suni’s achievements in Tokyo.
‘I never thought that I would ever get one of these, and she did it, she got it, she brought it home,’ he said.
‘I’m so proud of her, I’m so surprised, so everything. Good job.’
Suni’s mom Yeev, who immigrated to the US from Laos as a young child, admitted that the road to her daughter’s Olympic success was a tough one for the whole family, confessing that it was heartbreaking for her to watch the gymnast go through such a difficult few years of training.
‘[I’ve been crying] happy tears,’ she said of her response to Suni’s performance in Tokyo. ‘Just thinking of all the hard work she has done in the past two years and every time when she’s had a bad day and she comes home crying, that hurts me.
‘Seeing her with a gold medal and winning these medals, it just made me happy. So these are happy tears.’