Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story

I love finding new books about Korea or Korean Americans to share with our son. And since our little guy is into sports, I was really excited when I recently learned about this book.

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story by Paula Yoo recounts the story of Sammy Lee, the first Asian American to win an Olympic gold medal. Lee accomplished this at the London games in 1948 after becoming a doctor, while serving with the military, and despite facing discrimination. Lee was 28 years old when he won his gold medal, which he defended four years later at the 1952 games in Helsinki, Finland.

Lee’s diving dream began when he was 12 and growing up in California. But his training was limited since, as a person of color, he could only use the local pools one day a week. Lee continued to face discrimination throughout his life, but refused to let it hinder him. He became a medical doctor, as his father has dreamed he would, then went on to accomplish his own goal of diving in the Olympics.

It’s such a great story and the book is beautifully illustrated by Dom Lee. I found it at our local library but I definitely think it’s once I’ll be adding to our collection.

The author’s web site lists this one as being for kids ages 6-9. The hardcover edition was published in 2005, but the paperback edition was just released last year.

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