Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story

by Paula Yoo and Dom Lee

Twelve-year-old Sammy Lee could only use the public pool on Wednesdays—the... read more

Twelve-year-old Sammy Lee could only use the public pool on Wednesdays—the one day a week it was open to people who weren’t white. Sammy wanted to be an Olympic champion and believed diving was his best chance. But his parents, Korean immigrants, had big dreams for their son. His father wanted him to become a doctor and didn’t support Sammy’s desire. Paula Yoo’s picture book biography chronicles how Sammy successfully pursued both his own and his father’s dreams over the next sixteen years, despite the racism that he regularly faced. When he wasn’t allowed to train regularly in the public pool, Sammy’s coach dug a sand pit in his yard and Sammy dived into that. He also studied hard through high school and college and entered medical school, diving and training on the side. When the 1940 Olympics were cancelled, Sammy was sure his own dream had ended. But at the age of 28, Dr. Sammy Lee qualified for the 1948 Olympics in Helsinski and went on to become an Olympic champion. Dom Lee’s sepia-toned illustrations accompany Yoo’s inspiring story. (Ages 7–10)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2006

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