First Asian-American to win Olympic gold passed away at 96

Sammy Lee, a two-time Olympic gold medal-winning diver who later mentored four-time Olympic diving champion Greg Louganis, has died. He was 96. The University of Southern California said  that Lee died of pneumonia in Newport Beach. He was the school’s oldest living Olympian.

  • The 5-foot Lee, who was of Korean descent, was the first Asian-American to win an Olympic gold medal for the U.S. Lee became the first man to win consecutive Olympic titles in platform diving in 1948 and 1952 and was the oldest diver at age 32 to win Olympic gold. He also earned a bronze in 3-meter springboard at the 1948 Games.
  • Lee later coached Olympic diving champions Pat McCormick and Louganis, who swept the springboard and platform events at the 1984 and ‘88 Olympics. Lee coached the U.S. team at the 1960 and ‘64 Olympics.
  • Lee was the AAU national champion in platform and springboard diving in 1942, becoming the first person of color to win a national diving title, and in platform in 1946. He won the 1953 Sullivan Award as the nation’s top amateur athlete.
  • After attending Occidental College in Los Angeles, he graduated from the USC School of Medicine in 1947 and became an ear, nose and throat physician. He served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in the Korean War.

 

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