Wednesday 17th January 2018,

Bad Ass Asians

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First Asian American Man to win Olympic Gold Medal Winner dies at 96

posted by Louis Chan
Sammy Lee (

By Louis Chan
AsAmNews National Correspondent

The swimming, Olympic and Asian American communities are joining family and friends in mourning the death of Olympic gold medal diver Sammy Lee.

The Korean American became the first Asian American man to win an Olympic gold medal in 1948 at the London games and again in 1952 in Helsinki in the 10-meter diving competition(An earlier version of this story incorrectly said he was the first overall. Victoria Manalo Draves won gold in the same games, also in diving. She is Filipino American).

He later coached many Olympic greats including four-time gold medalist Greg Louganis who is of Samoan and Swedish descent and an LGBT activist.

“He taught me at a very early age the responsibility of being (an) ambassador to not only my sport of diving but to the world,” Louganis said in a statement. “I was only 16 at my first Olympics with him as my coach.”

ADDITIONAL COVERAGE: Dr. Sammy Lee, Olympic Medalist and Coach to Greg Louganis, Dies at 96

Hongping Li, the head diving coach at the University of Southern California, counts Lee as a mentor.

“I’m going to miss him as a mentor, as a loving father and a very kind human being,” said Li to CBS Los Angeles.

As with many Asian American pioneers, Lee had to overcome racism. He was only allowed to practice in a Los Angeles pool once a week, the day non-Whites were allowed to use it.

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  1. Richard Andrada says:

    Re: First Asian American to win Olympuc Gold Medal:Did he get his gold medal before Victoria Manalo Drves during the same games?

    1. Randall says:

      RE: First Asian American to win Olympic Gold Medal: Victoria Manolo Draves won a gold medal the same year in diving. A plaque erected at a SF park named in her honor in SF says she is the first Asian American woman to win s gold medal. Like Sammy Lee, she don her medal at the London games in 1948.

  2. Duke says:

    RE: First Asian American man to win Olympic Gold Medal dies at 96:Victoria Manalo Draves won a gold medal before Sammy Lee. She won 2 gold to Lee’s 1 gold in 1948. They were in fact best friends. Sammy introduced Vicki to her husband. The NY Times has already issued a correction reflecting this. Draves won 2 days before Lee. It would honor both of them as friends to that she was the 1st Asian American woman and he was the 1st man to win Gold.

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