The Impact of Asian Representation in the Olympics

By Ong Vue

As the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games approach, I am reminded yet again about the importance of representation in sports. Growing up in the 1990s, I heard about ice skater, Kristi Yamaguchi, the first Asian-American woman to win a gold medal in a Winter Olympic competition in 1992. I then watched in awe as Michelle Kwan became the one to beat. These women were the two iconic Asian-American athletes in the media. They were also my two biggest role models and inspired me to ice skate all the time at Lock 3’s outdoor rink in Akron. My friends and I would just skate in circles and race, but in my head, I saw myself as the next Michelle. While I never pursued the sport seriously, I became an avid skating fan which has continued to this day.

Seeing someone who looked like me on the podium was huge and helped me to feel seen and that I could do anything I set my mind to. Later as an adult in 2010, I watched Korean ice skater, Yuna Kim, win the gold medal while Japanese skater Mao Asada earned the silver. Although not American, these two skaters represented a large part of my identity.

Despite this Asian representation and the tremendous impact it had on my life, to this day, I have always felt like a minority. I am Hmong, an Asian ethnicity with roots in Vietnam, Thailand and Laos. The general population does not know we exist, although there are pockets of us throughout the United States, specifically in California, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. I am a minority within the Asian minority. I never saw anyone with my background in the media for anything, let alone sports. Until now.

Suni Lee, a Hmong-American from Minnesota, is going to the Olympics to compete in gymnastics. While I’m a little too late in my Olympic pursuits, I love that I will be able to see a fellow Hmong-American on television as proof to my younger self and future children that Hmong people can achieve the seemingly impossible. We won’t be overlooked any longer. I will be cheering alongside Asians around the world as we follow Suni’s journey and know that this is just the beginning. As youth see themselves represented across elite sports, they’ll be reminded that they, too, can have the same success.

About ong vue

Ong Vue is an Akron, Ohio native and 2015 graduate of the University of Akron with a degree in Communications. She worked for various youth and refugee-focused nonprofits before deciding to go into entrepreneurship. Ong currently runs an online retail company and supports local sports whenever she can.