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Sammy Lee, elderly Olympic gold medalist, found after sudden disappearance

Sammy Lee, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, appears in this undated file photo.
April 2, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A two-time Olympic gold medalist who went missing for more than 24 hours was found Tuesday evening.

Sammy Lee, 92, left his Huntington Beach residence around 2 p.m. Monday to go swimming at his sports club, Los Caballeros, in Fountain Valley. He had not been heard from since. However, detectives determined that he purchased gas at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in Mojave in Kern County. There was a credit card transaction and surveillance video that shows Lee was at the gas station.

Lee was found safe and in good spirits, but slightly disoriented. Around 9 p.m. Tuesday, deputies responded to the 8400 block of Washington Boulevard in Pico Rivera in response to a report of a traffic hazard. Deputies were told that an elderly man was swerving through traffic in his car and was stopped next to the curb line. The responding deputies identified the driver as Lee.

Lee was taken care of by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies at the Pico Rivera station before being reunited with his family.

"I just got a call from my cousin saying that he's keeping the sheriffs in stitches with laughter," said Lee's daughter-in-law, Gina Lee. "My father-in-law is a joke-teller so he's just keeping them laughing at the station at this point."

Police and family members were concerned because Lee suffers from dementia and heart problems. He is also diabetic. They initially said it appeared Lee may have been confused and lost.

Asked what she was going to tell her husband when she saw him, Lee's wife Rosalyn said with a smile, "What a relief. We missed you, of course, and all that good stuff."

Lee won two gold medals for diving, one at the 1948 London games, in which he also won a bronze medal, and the other gold medal came at the 1952 games in Helsinki. He was the first Asian-American to win a gold medal for the United States.

Lee has also coached other Olympic greats, such as Bob Webster and Greg Louganis.

"He is a legend in our diving world," said Hong Ping, USC's head diving coach. "He's our hero."

The Lee family said they were going to take away his car keys and he will no longer be allowed to drive.

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