After graduating from Occidental College n 1943, Sammy Lee entered medical school at Southern Cal, also serving in the US Army for 13 years, leaving with the rank of major. Lee, who was of Korean parentage, won his first AAU title in 1942 on springboard and then retired to concentrate on his medical career, but he made a comeback in 1946 when he was AAU platform champion. At the 1951 Pan American Games he won silver (platform) and bronze (springboard). Dr. Lee was the first man to retain an Olympic platform title and when he finally retired from competition, he established a reputation as an outstanding coach, counting among his pupils the next man to win back-to-back golds in the platform, Bob Webster. In 1953 Lee was awarded the James E. Sullivan Award as the USA's top amateur athlete.
Lee was the first Asian-American man to win a gold medal. He overcame discrimination in California when, as a non-white, he was only allowed to use the local pool for training one day a week. Lee later led the U.S. diving team at the 1960 Olympics and judged diving competitions. In his medical career he specialized in diseases of the ear, as an otolaryngologist. Lee had a square named after him at the corner of Olympic Boulevard and Normandie Avenue in Koreatown, and the diving tower at USC and the Dr. Sammy Lee Medical and Health Science Magnet Elementary School in Los Angeles were named for him.
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