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Olympic Gold Medalist Jimmy Kim Dies at 56

Master Jimmy Kim

July 2, 2023

By Brian Hews

Grandmaster Dr. Jimmy Kim, raised in Cerritos, attended Leal ES, graduated from Cerritos High in 1985, and the first American male to ever win a gold medal in taekwondo at the Olympics, passed away Friday June 23 at the University of California San Diego Medical Center; Kim was 56.

A Facebook post stated that Dr. Kim died from Dermatomyositis, a rare autoimmune disorder he had suffered from for some time.

Dr. Kim’s father, Cerritos resident Chan-Yong Kim, was also a Grandmaster. Jimmy began his taekwondo training at the age of 2 and started competing by the age of 7. By 1988 Kim had collected “between 45 and 50” medals, including three national gold medals and three gold medals in international competitions.

Incorporating elements of Zen Buddhism, taekwondo translates into English as “the way of fist and foot fighting.” Competitors, who wear head and chest protectors, score by striking their opponent’s head or chest with sufficient force to make them stagger.

The younger Kim was part of the American team that shocked the taekwondo world, capturing four gold medals when the sport was included in the Olympics for the first time as a demonstration event at the 1988 games in Seoul, South Korea.

Kim and his teammates, Lynnette Love, Arlene Limas and Dana Hee, all won gold medals. Despite suffering from a fever and a broken toe, Kim upset South Korea’s Jong-Suk Kim in the finals to capture the first heavyweight Olympic title.

Kim always wanted to study sports medicine, eventually earning a doctor of chiropractic degree while opening his martial arts school, the Jimmy Kim Taekwondo Center, in Laguna Niguel, Calif. Among his students was 2008 Olympian Charlotte Craig.

Dr. Kim is survived by his wife Lauren and three sons; his father and mother, Grandmaster Chan Yong Kim and Mrs. Kim and two sisters, Jenny and Susan and their families. 

The family is requesting privacy at this time.