The 100 Most Influential People of 2021
Doug Mills—The New York Times/Redux
September 9, 2021 3:53 PM EDT

Under the bright lights of sports’ biggest arena, Sunisa Lee’s Olympic performance not only cements her legacy but also symbolizes strength and fuels inspiration around the world.

Facing unprecedented headwinds during a pandemic, as well as personal adversity and the weight of a nation’s expectations, Suni was placed in a unique position to display the unstoppable force that she is: fiery but kind, dedicated but abundant with youthful joy, and fiercely talented. While her gold-medal win in this year’s all-around competition accomplishes a lifelong ambition, her journey as an individual outside of gymnastics is just beginning.

As the first Hmong American Olympian, Suni has an impact that extends far beyond any border or sport—it signifies representation. This milestone has and will continue to inspire the Hmong community, but it also sends a simple yet powerful message to underrepresented people everywhere: Dream big because anything is possible.

Liukin is a five-time Olympic medalist

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