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Famous Asian Americans in Politics and Sports (page 2)

Famous Asian Americans in Politics and Sports

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Updated on Apr 14, 2010

Duke Kahanamoku

Born “Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku” on August 24 in 1890 on the outskirts of Waikiki, Duke was a Hawaiian swimmer, actor, lawman, businessman and a five-time Olympic medalist in swimming, who is credited with spreading the sport of surfing.

Kahanamoku developed his stellar swimming and surfing skills on the beaches of Waikiki and began breaking records when he was just a teenager. Kahanamoku easily qualified for the U.S. Olympic swim team in 1912, breaking the record for the 200 meter freestyle in his trial run for the 4×200 relay. He went on to win a gold medal in the 100 meter freestyle in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, and a silver medal with the relay team. During the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, he won gold medals both in the 100 meters (beating out fellow Hawaiian Pua Kealoha) and in the relay race. During the 1924 Olympics in Paris, he finished the 100 meters with a silver medal with the bronze going to Duke's brother, Samuel Kahanamoku. He also played for the U.S. water polo team at the 1932 Summer Olympics.

Throughout his career, but especially after retiring from the Olympics, Kahanamoku traveled internationally giving swimming exhibitions. He is credited with popularizing the sport of surfing, previously known only in Hawaii, by incorporating surfing exhibitions into these visits as well. While living in Newport Beach, California on June 14, 1925, Kahanamoku rescued eight men from a fishing vessel that capsized while trying to enter the city's harbor. Using his surfboard, he was able to make quick trips back and forth to shore, increasing the number of sailors he was able to save. Newport's police chief at the time called Duke's efforts "the most superhuman surfboard rescue act the world has ever seen."

Duke is a member of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame and he served as sheriff of Honolulu, Hawaii from 1932 to 1961, serving 13 consecutive terms. During this period, he also appeared in a number of television programs and films. Today, a monument at Waikiki beach in Honolulu stands in his memory.

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