LONG BEACH, California, January 22. THIS weekend, members of the diving community joined together for a surprise party planned for Dr. Sammy Lee.
Lee won gold medals at the 1948 and 1952 Olympics in diving, while winning the Sullivan Award during that time period as well. He also served on the President's Council for Physical Fitness during five presidential administrations.
One of Lee's former divers, renowned stunt woman and race car driver, Kitty O'Neil, contacted Debby McCormick, another former student of Lee to plan the surprise. The bait used to lure Lee to the party was a birthday celebration for McCormick, while the big surprise for Lee was seeing O'Neil for the first time in nearly 35 years.
As word got out within the swimming community, several other top divers made the journey to celebrate Lee.
Some of those that honored Sammy were:
Kitty O'Neil – race car driver, world record holder, daredevil and top stuntwoman
Frank Gorman-silver Olympic Silver medalist 1964
Linda Cooper-1964 10-meter Olympic Games 4th place.
Joe Gerlach – 56 Hungarian Olympic Team, The "Evel Knieval" of our sport, known for diving from a Hot Air Balloon into a 10-foot sponge, and out of the ceiling into a sponge in Las Vegas. (He is also the father of Champion Surfer Brad Gerlach)
Debby McCormick-United States National 10-meter Champion
Patty Simms-United States National 10 Meter Champion
Greg Shuff-Masters National Champion
Nicole Van Mole (Ronald) represented Belgium
Ray Reyes-former outstanding diving coach
Steve Eberle-National Team Member
Fred Stellhorn and Jack Furry former diving greats under Lee's tutelage.
"We all wondered if Sammy had any idea the impact he had on everyone in that room over the years," McCormick said. "I do not know of a more generous and well respected man that has done so much for so many individuals and for the sport of diving."
Special thanks to Debby McCormick for contributing to this report.