The first American woman to ever win two gold Olympic medals in springboard and platform diving was also the first woman of Filipino heritage to do so.
An athlete of extraordinary prowess, Filipino-American Victoria Manalo Draves carried only one flag at the 1948 Olympics, but she brought pride to two nations.
Draves was born in 1924 to a Filipino chef and musician father, Teofilo Manalo, and an English maid mother, Gertrude Taylor, in South of Market in San Francisco. The area was where many Filipino immigrants settled at the time.
Just last year, Draves was also given a fitting tribute in her honor through the unveiling of a plaque bearing her name in a park, according to NBC. The event began with the playing of the National Anthems of both the United States and the Philippines.
While undeniably skillful. Draves did not start early in sports. She only began diving at age 16 while in high school. According to the New York Times, her interest in the sport grew and she eventually tried to train at San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel Swimming and Diving Club. She was unfortunately rejected, allegedly, because of her Filipino name.
To be able to compete, she was forced to change her last name to her mother’s maiden name, Taylor. Before competing in the 1948 Olympics, Draves had already won five United States diving championships. After winning in the Olympics, she and her husband/training coach, Lyle Draves, visited the Philippines after being invited by a local organization in Manila.
In their month-long stay in the Philippines, they were given a warm welcome and even allowed to stay in a suite in the Philippine President’s official residence, the Malacañang Palace.
“Victoria Manalo Draves was a brilliant athlete and a great role model for both women and Asian American communities,” District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim commented during the tribute for Draves last year.
She would receive numerous commendations over her Olympic achievements before and after she died in 2010 at the age of 85.
In 1969, Draves was elected to the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In 2006, a two-acre park in San Francisco was named Victoria Manalo Draves Park in her honor. The site was reportedly where she attended elementary school.