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27 April 2010

from the desert sun: filipina american olympic champion victoria manalo - draves dies

April 23, 2010

Olympic diver Victoria Draves dies

Terria Smith
The Desert Sun

Victoria Manalo Draves emerged from the 1948 London Summer Olympics diving competition as a double gold medalist and a hero.

She became the first woman to win a gold medal in springboard and platform diving. With this historic athletic achievement, she was celebrated by many as a symbol of the American dream.

Draves was the Filipino American community's “first national heroine,” said Fred Cordova, a founder of the Filipino American National History Society.

“Just the fact that she was the first American (woman) to win two gold medals (in diving), the fact that she was Filipino American, that was the beginning of a breakthrough to us,” Cordova said.

Draves, who lived in Palm Springs, died of heart and cancer complications on April 11. She was 85.

Born on Dec. 31, 1924, Draves and her twin were the youngest members of their family in San Francisco. Her father was Filipino, her mother English.

“Her early childhood, they were poor. She came from a poor family,” her husband and diving coach, Lyle Draves, said.

She began competitive diving when she was about 17, he said.

Throughout her training, Victoria Draves faced discrimination about her heritage from other swimmers and even clubs that requested she change her last name, Lyle Draves said.

She met Lyle Draves, who coached her for the Olympic trials in the mid-1940s. The two married on July 12, 1946.

After winning the gold in London, Victoria Draves appeared in LIFE magazine in 1949.

“Once you get that successful, you become quite popular,” Lyle Draves said.

Through the 1940s and 1950s the two toured around the world appearing in water performance shows with celebrities such as Buster Crabbe and Larry Crosby.

In the Coachella Valley, Draves performed at the El Mirador Hotel in Palm Springs and the Shadow Mountain Resort & Club in Palm Desert.

Then came family life. Starting in the early 1950s, the couple raised four sons — David, Jeffery, Dale and Kim — in Tarzana.

“My mom always smiled. She always brightened your day. That was my mom even raising four boys, and we were a handful,” David Draves said.

Victoria and Lyle Draves moved to Palm Springs in the early 1990s. She is survived by her sons, husband and six grandchildren.

“We've had such a good life in so many ways,” Lyle Draves said.

In addition to her gold medals, Victoria Draves received numerous accolades including induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honor Diver on Dec. 22, 1969.

In 2006, a two-acre park in San Francisco on Folsom and Sherman streets was named in Draves' honor.

This photo of Olympian Victoria Manalo Draves is taken from the May 16, 1949 issue of LIFE magazine. Draves, a Palm Springs resident, died April 11.

This photo of Olympian Victoria Manalo Draves is taken from the May 16, 1949 issue of LIFE magazine. Draves, a Palm Springs resident, died April 11. (Courtesy of Lyle Draves

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