Dr. Sammy Lee, two-time Olympic diving gold medalist from Huntington Beach, was one of seven new members inducted Friday into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame in ceremonies at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
Lee, a 69-year-old American of Korean descent, was honored along with gold-medal winning swimmer Tracy Caulkins, boxer George Foreman, skater Scott Hamilton, weightlifter Tamio “Tommy” Kono, and the late oarsman John B. “Jack” Kelly Sr.
Also inducted as a special contributor was the late Asa Bushnell, former secretary/treasurer and board of directors member of the USOC and commissioner of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference.
The induction ceremony marked the 11th anniversary of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, established in 1979 by Coca-Cola USA and the USOC. The Hall’s charter class was enshrined in 1983.
Lee broke up those in attendance with his humorous acceptance speech. “I know Scott (Hamilton) said he would not show up here this year unless I was inducted so he wouldn’t be the shortest Olympian in the Hall of Fame.
“Just to make the Olympic team . . . each one of us should really have such a hope and dream. Then, to be selected to join 35 others in the Hall of Fame is one of the great honors of all time.”
Honors are not new to Lee. A graduate of USC’s School of Medicine in 1947, he also has won the James E. Sullivan Award as the Amateur Athlete of the Year in 1953 and was inducted into the Orange County Hall of Fame in 1984.
On his 32nd birthday--Aug. 1, 1952, in Helsinki, Finland--Lee became the first male diver ever to win back-to-back gold medals and the oldest to win an Olympic diving title, when he captured the platform competition.
Four years earlier in London, as a 28-year-old lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, Lee scored two 9.5s and a 10 in performing an unprecedented three-and-a-half somersault off the platform to win his first gold medal. He also captured a bronze medal in the three-meter springboard.
Lee went on to much success--as a diving coach with double gold medalist Bob Webster ('60 and ’64 springboard) and four-time gold medalist Greg Louganis ('84 and ’88 springboard and platform) achieving the greatest fame, and as an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist with a practice in Santa Ana.
Caulkins, 27 of Nashville, Tenn., won three gold medals in the 1984 Games in Los Angeles--200-meter individual medley, 400-meter individual medley, and 4x100-meter medley relay.
Foreman, 41 of Houston, won the heavyweight division championship in the ’68 Games in Mexico City and went on to become world heavyweight champion.
Hamilton, 31 of Denver, won the figure skating gold medal in the ’84 Games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia.
Kono, 60 of of Honolulu, won weightlifting’s lightweight division gold medal in the ’52 Games in Helsinki and the light-heavyweight division title in the ’56 Games in Melbourne, Australia.
Kelly, born in 1890 in Philadelphia, was inducted in the Veterans Category, established in 1987 to honor athletes who competed in the Games before 1948. He won two gold medals--in single and double sculls--in the ’20 Games in Antwerp, Belgium and a gold medal in the double sculls in the ’24 Games in Paris.
Balloting for Hall of Fame members is conducted annually by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Assn., USOC officials and current Hall members.