MOORHEAD — Minnesotans are known to smother an uninterested world with knowledge that certain famous people are "one of us." Did you know, for example, the late musician Prince is from Minnesota? It's true. He is.
It's combination of pride and insecurity. For all its cockiness the state is still located smack-dab in the middle of flyover country.
The jabs at Minnesota were coming fast and furious last week when St. Paul's Suni Lee won the Olympic gold medal in the all-around in gymnastics.
"Woke up to the horrible realization that Minnesotans are going to add women’s gymnastics to the list of things they are insufferable about ..." Bismarck, N.D., lawyer Tim Purdon wrote on Twitter.
(That Purdon is originally from Ashby, Minn., and notes his Minnesota connections whenever it is to his benefit was left out of the tweet, but we digress ....)
He was not the only one offering a similar sentiment.
To which we, as Minnesotans, say: Guilty as charged.
We also say: This time, cut us some slack.
This time, celebrate with us.
Suni Lee, an 18-year-old from a family of immigrants who grew up in a modest neighborhood in St. Paul, is a gold medalist in perhaps the profile individual event in the Summer Olympics. She is sport's newest superstar, just like Nadia Comaneci, Mary Lou Retton, Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles before her. All won the all-around title.
She was the first Hmong-American to qualify for the Olympics and, of course, the first to medal.
Lee is the American dream.
Her story is wonderful, even if she wasn't from Minnesota. It's just better since she is.
The Hmong served alongside U.S. forces in Laos during the Vietnam War. After America's withdrawal, the Hmong were persecuted by the Laotian government, causing many to seek refuge in nearby Thailand. From there, tens of thousands emigrated to the U.S.
Among them were Lee's grandparents and parents, who were youngsters when the family resettled as refugees in St. Paul in the late 1970s.
Suni was born in 2003 and began gymnastics at age 5. The videos of Suni on the homemade wooden balance beam her father built are priceless.
Suni's large extended family and St. Paul's Hmong community supported her rise in competitive gymnastics, donating money and holding fundraisers.
The last couple of years were difficult. Suni's father fell from a ladder and was paralyzed. She lost relatives to COVID-19. Minnesota's strict pandemic protocols shut down her gym, leaving her without a place to train. She battled painful leg injuries.
Thursday, with all-around favorite and teammate Simone Biles cheering from the stands after pulling out of competition due to mental health concerns, Lee overcame nerves and an early slip on the balance beam to win gold.
The best gymnast in the world is from Minnesota. It was an improbable story from the start, when her grandparents made the decision to flee their homeland. It ended as the American dream.
Yeah, Minnesota is proud of that and will tell the world as much. If that makes us insufferable, so be it.