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Missing Olympic diver Sammy Lee tracked through credit card, police say

April 03, 2013|By Robert J. Lopez
  • Two-time Olympic diving champion Sammy Lee.
Two-time Olympic diving champion Sammy Lee. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles…)

Investigators tracked two-time Olympic gold medalist Sammy Lee through his credit card purchases as the 92-year-old drove through at least three Southern California counties after he went missing Monday.

Lee, who suffers from dementia, was disoriented but in good condition when he was found about 9 p.m. Tuesday by deputies who responded to a report of a traffic hazard, authorities said.

He left his Huntington Beach home Monday afternoon to go swimming at Los Caballeros Racquet & Sports Club in Fountain Valley, which was his common practice.

Authorities traced Lee's credit card purchases and determined that he purchased gas about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in Studio City, Lt. Gary Faust of the Huntington Beach Police Department told The Times.

Lee had previously purchased gas for his Mercedes -- license plate "2 Golds" -- in Mojave about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, authorities said.

Foust said that the Los Angeles Police Department was alerted and that officers went to the Studio City gas station. Lee had gone, but police were able to verify that he was there, Faust said.

Lee was eventually found Tuesday night in the 8400 block of Washington Boulevard in Pico Rivera, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said. He was reportedly swerving through traffic in his Mercedes and was stopped near a curb.

Lee is the son of Korean immigrants and won the gold on the man's platform at the 1948 London Games, becoming the first American of Asian descent to win an Olympic 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 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.'"


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