The gold medalist said she and some friends ― who, like her, were of Asian descent ― were waiting for an Uber after a night out on the town.
Suddenly, a group speeding by in a car started yelling racial slurs and insisted the group “go back to where they came from.”
Lee said one passenger even sprayed her arm with pepper spray as the car sped off.
She said she was angry about the attack but felt she had little recourse, partially because of her celebrity status.
“I was so mad, but there was nothing I could do or control because they skirted off,” she said. “I didn’t do anything to them, and having the reputation, it’s so hard because I didn’t want to do anything that could get me into trouble. I just let it happen.”
Lee said one thing she did do was call her longtime coach, Jess Graba, after the incident.
Currently, Lee is competing on “Dancing With The Stars,” but she said she will soon need to take a break and take care of herself.
“When I shared that I was feeling down, so many people reached out and either sent positive messages of encouragement or told me they were feeling similarly and not to feel alone,” she said. “It’s OK to feel down sometimes, but what I’ve realized is that it’s important to express your feelings and ask for help.
“In the past, I might have pushed on and not acknowledged the state of my mental health. But there’s so much power in owning your feelings. It’s not weakness, it’s actually taking control.”
Still, she admits there’s one thing she still has trouble accepting.
“I definitely don’t see myself as an Olympic gold medalist,” she admitted. “It’s crazy to think that. I still have a hard time letting it sink in.”