Today is the birthday of Duke Kahanamoku, the first Hawaiian ever to swim in the Olympics. He was born on August 24, 1890 in Honolulu and was an incredible swimmer with a passion for surfboarding. By the end of his twenty-year Olympic career, he was a six-time medal winner! He also introduced the art of surfing to Australia and the east and west coasts of the United States. You can read more about Duke in Surfer of the Century: The Life of Duke Kahanamoku by Ellie Crowe and illustrated by Richard Waldrep.
It’s Olympics time! Have you all been glued to your televisions and various electronic devices for the last 5 days? Or, conversely, have you been dodging your televisions and electronic devices, trying to avoid spoilers?
Either way, the Olympics are one of my favorite things. And while it’s tons of fun rooting for all the current big names (Michael Phelps! Kerri Walsh! Gabby Douglas!) it’s also worth spending a few minutes remembering some great Olympic athletes from the past who paved the way. Here are three to start with:
1. Sammy Lee (Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds): Diver Sammy Lee was born on August 1, 1920 in Fresno, California. Growing up, Sammy was barred from the public pool six out of seven days of the week because he was not white; despite that, Lee became a world-class diver and at the 1948 Olympic Games in London, became the first Asian American to win a gold medal. There’s a great picture of Sammy Lee, now 91, in this now-and-then piece on athletes from the last London Olympics.