Meet The First Asian American Gold Medalist, 91 Year-Old Sammy Lee

July 20th, 2012 | 8 comments | Posted by Jen

The last time the Olympics were in London in 1948 was also the first time an Asian American won a gold medal in the Games. That distinction belongs to 91 year-old Dr. Samuel “Sammy” Lee, who was born in Fresno, CA and is of Korean descent.

From Time Lightbox via Wired:

Dr. Samuel “Sammy” Lee, 91, was the first Asian-American to win an Olympic gold medal for the U.S. at the 1948 London games, and the first man to win back-to-back gold medals in Olympic platform diving.

London, 1948: Sammy Lee training at the Empire Pool in Wembley

From Wikipedia:

As a twelve-year-old in 1932, Lee dreamed of becoming a diver, but at the time Latinos, Asians and African-Americans were only allowed to use Fresno’s Brookside Pool on Wednesdays, on what was called “international day”: the day before the pool was scheduled to be drained and refilled with clean water. Because Lee needed a place to practice and could not regularly use the public pool, his coach dug a pit in his backyard and filled it with sand. Lee practiced by jumping into the pit.

Diving coach Ron O'Brien, Greg Louganis, and Lee circa 1978

Lee went on to become an ear, nose, and throat doc, serve in the U.S. Army Medical Corps during the Korean War–wonder what that was like for a Korean American–and, later, coach diving legend Greg Louganis to a silver medal in the 1976 Olympics. He’s a member of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, has a square named after him in LA’s K-town, and is now retired and living in Huntington Beach, CA.

What a life.

[Time Lightbox: The Way We Were: 1948 London Olympians Look Back]

Source
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Thanks, Frances!

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8 Responses to “Meet The First Asian American Gold Medalist, 91 Year-Old Sammy Lee”

  1. [...] Disgrasian: “Meet The First Asian American Gold Medalist, 91 Year-Old Sammy Lee” [...]

  2. Cindy says:

    Awesome. Simply Awesome.

  3. [...] The First Asian American Gold Medalist, 91 Year-Old Sammy Lee Disgrasian The last time the Olympics were in London in 1948 was also the first time an Asian American won a [...]

  4. [...] the Olympics kicking off today, we’re in a patriotic fervor! This segment on Sammy Lee, the first Asian-American Olympian who won a gold medal for diving, really warmed our [...]

  5. [...] Meet the First Asian American Gold Medalist, 91 Year-Old Sammy Lee [...]

  6. [...] (or in this case read) it already is. In this case the later for me that was was inspired by the post on Samuel Lee that I read on Disgrasian last Sunday. In case you are new here. Samuel Lee happens to be,at 91, [...]

  7. [...] On August 2, 2012 · Leave a Comment by Guest Contributor Jen Wang, originally published at DisgrasianThe last time the Olympics were in London in 1948 was also the first time an Asian American won a [...]

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