Black Belt Hall of Fame inductee Jimmy Kim, the first American male to ever win a gold medal in taekwondo at the Olympics, passed away Friday at the University of California San Diego Medical Center at the age of 56.
Born in Cerritos, Calif. to a father who ran a taekwondo school, Kim began training at the age of 2 and started competing by the age of 7. He 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.
Though the host country, which created the sport, had thoroughly dominated international taekwondo up to that point, Kim and his teammates, including fellow gold medalists Lynnette Love, Arlene Limas and Dana Hee, showed that America and the rest of the world was quickly catching up. 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.
Prior to the Olympics, Kim told the Los Angeles Times he was motivated by a desire to please those close to him saying, “If I did this for myself, I probably wouldn’t work as hard as for my family and friends.”
Kim would eventually earn a doctor of chiropractic degree and open his own martial arts school, the Jimmy Kim Taekwondo Center, in Laguna Niguel, Calif. Among his students was 2008 Olympian Charlotte Craig.
Herb Perez, a friend of Kim's and fellow Olympic gold medalist, informed Black Belt Kim died from Dermatomyositis, a rare autoimmune disorder he had been suffering from for some time.