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Missing Olympic diving champ Sammy Lee was in Studio City

April 02, 2013|By Robert J Lopez
  • Two-time Olympic diving champion Sammy Lee in 2011.
Two-time Olympic diving champion Sammy Lee in 2011. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles…)

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Sammy Lee, who suffers from dementia and was reported missing after leaving his Huntington Beach home, was in Studio City on Tuesday evening to gas his Mercedes after traveling earlier in the day to Mojave, authorities told The Times.

The 92-year-old Lee, who gained fame as a platform diver, also has a history of heart problems and is believed to be lost and confused, according to Huntington Beach police.

Lee left his home Monday about 3 p.m. to go swimming at Los Caballeros Racquet & Sports Club in Fountain Valley, which was his common practice. 

Police said that Lee purchased gas in Mojave about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. He was driving his tan 2011 Mercedes 300 with a California license plate that says "2 Golds."

Investigators traced Lee's credit card purchases and determined that he put gas in his vehicle again about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in Studio City, Lt. Gary Faust told The Times.

He said that the Los Angeles Angeles Police Department was alerted and that officers went to the gas station. But Lee had gone.

"The LAPD verified he was there," Faust said.

Lee is the son of Korean immigrants and won the gold on the men's platform at the 1948 London Games, becoming the first American of Asian descent to win a gold medal. He won again in Helsinki in 1952 at the age of 32, becoming the oldest diver to take home the gold.

Born in Fresno, Lee was raised in Highland Park in Los Angeles and attended Franklin High School. In 2011, he was inducted into the L.A. Unified School District High School Sports Hall of Fame. 

Lee overcame prejudice and discrimination on his way to winning the Olympic gold. He told The Times in 2011 that he was forced to practice at the Brookside Pool in Pasadena only on Wednesdays -- when it was open to non-whites on the day before it was drained and refilled.

He also recalled being told by a high school administrator not to run for student body president because his school had never elected a non-white candidate. Lee said he won and recalled explaining his victory to the administrator. 

"I said, 'My fellow classmates do not look at me as Korean. They look at me as a fellow American.' "

Anyone with information is asked to call Det. Ellis during business hours at (714) 536-5971. After hours calls can be left at (714) 960-8811.

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Twitter: @LAJourno

robert.lopez@latimes.com

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