Obituary Database

Sammy Lee, diver who became first Asian American to win Olympic medal, dies at 96

Sammy Lee, diver who became first Asian American to win Olympic medal, dies at 96

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...

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