Sammy Lee #AsianPacificAmericanHeritageMonth #APAHM #AAPIHM

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Sammy Lee 1952

Samuel Lee was an American physician and diver. He was the first Asian American man to win an Olympic gold medal for the United States (the second Asian American to win a gold medal overall) and the first man to win back-to-back gold medals in Olympic platform diving. Via LA Times

Sammy Lee learned to dive at Pasadena’s Brookside Park pool, which until 1940 allowed people of color to use the facilities only on Wednesdays, the day before it was drained and refilled. His most reliable place to work out was waterless — a diving board installed over a sand pit he dug in his coach’s backyard.

The inescapable racism “inspired me to perform,” Lee, the son of Korean immigrants, once said. “I was angered, but I was going to prove that in America, I could do anything.”

Lee overcame discrimination to become the first Asian American to win an Olympic medal and the first diver to win back-to-back gold medals in two different Olympics — in London in 1948 and Helsinki in 1952.

A retired doctor who also coached Olympians, Lee died in Newport Beach [in 2016] after suffering from pneumonia. He was 96.

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