Having a Athlete for a Father, Was I Destined to Work in the Olympic Movement?
My sister and I were born into a family that was unique in every way. My father was a full-blooded Korean born in Mexico to South Korean parents. My mother was also born in Mexico, to Spanish parents. They met through mutual friends and Mom says he was always either training for bodybuilding competitions or wrestling.
Eventually, he went into wrestling full-time and worked with several big companies in the USA (click HERE to watch him wrestling). This is when my life as a nomad started, when I was only a few months old. People often ask me why I consider English my first language; well, it was the language I spoke with friends, at school, with neighbors, and heard it on TV. My dad spoke perfect English (he had been in an exchange program in the United States Air Force for a couple of years), so that’s the language we spoke at home when we lived in the USA.
When I was in elementary school, my dad toured almost exclusively in Asia, where his friends, legendary wrestlers, Karl Gotch and Antonio Inoki, organized huge wrestling events. That's how I came to live in Hawaii for 4 years. We couldn't travel with my father, so his home base was Honolulu when he was on tour for one or two months at a time. Hawaii became our home and, as kids, we didn’t realize we were foreigners. In Hawaii, the majority of the population was Asian so we fit right in and did what all the other girls did: we went to school, learned to play the ukulele and dance hula (yeah, these were part of the school curriculum!).
When he came home from touring, we were daddy’s girls, went to the beach with him and helped him work out (we’d each grab one of his arms and he would do curls with us hanging from his forearms, or he would bench press with one of us and we’d laugh and laugh). The only thing that made us different was that sometimes people would stop us and ask our dad for an autograph. We didn’t care.
Our dad taught my sister and I discipline, love for sports and that you had to work hard at the gym to see results. He taught us to love food with passion. He taught us that NOTHING is more exciting than traveling. He taught us that our family was a tribe and we had to stick together and be loyal to each other and nobody outside our family was more important. He would kill for his girls and we walked the streets of Waikiki proud because we were Hahn Lee’s girls and nobody could mess with us.
Many years later, when I started working in the ISSF and the Olympic Movement, I was too stressed out and nervous to stop and realize that maybe it was meant to be. Maybe I was always meant to work and travel like my father in the world of sports…doing what he loved the most!
We miss you very much, Dad!!