But the implications can be more far reaching than seemingly insignificant results on the athletic field.That Asian Americans are picking up golf clubs after watching Tiger Woods and Se Ri Pak dominate as professionals, or are putting on skates after watching Apolo Anton Ohno and Kwan compete as Olympians, eventually their participation will lead to more integration of Asian Americans in other aspects of American society.Truth is, there aren't many Asian Americans playing sports today, whether it is on the youth level or in the professional arena.
A year after earning his medical degree, he became the first Asian American to win an Olympic gold medal, finishing first on the 10-meter diving platform at the 1948 London Games and again at the 1952 Helsinki Games.
Already a veteran of World War II, Lee served another tour of duty in Korea in 1953, where he learned he had won the James E. Only 5-feet, 2-inches tall, Lee overcame discrimination to attain his goals.
So I became the one who tried the most difficult dives." In the years since his Olympic achievements, Lee said he believes much has changed with regard to the perception of Asian Americans in athletics.
"Sixty years ago, they said you had to be Caucasian, slender and tall to be a diver," he said.
Toward the end of the 20th Century, the discussion broadened to include Latinos.
But as we begin Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the nation's fastest growing population group continues to lag far behind as participants in sport.
Whether coaches, players or fans, the common misconception is that Asian Americans are physically inferior to whites, African-Americans and Latinos. "This is why it is so important that Asian American athletes have to rise to the top and show the general public that Asian Americans can also achiece excellence in sports." Sammy Lee was among the first to embrace and excel in both academics and athletics.
Though today he lacks the name recognition of Jackie Robinson or Roberto Clemente, pioneers for African American and Latino athletes, respectively, Lee is their Asian equivalent -- and then some.
Michelle Kwan made .3 million, and she's an Olympian, an amateur," Lee said.