Victoria Manalo Draves, the first woman to win a gold medal in springboard and platform diving -- considered the Filipino American community's "first national heroine" -- died earlier this month of heart and cancer complications. She was 85: Olympic diver Victoria Draves dies.
Draves was the Filipino American community's “first national heroine,” said Fred Cordova, a founder of the Filipino American National History Society.After winning the gold at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, she appeared in LIFE magazine and toured around the world, appearing in water performance shows with celebrities such as Buster Crabbe and Larry Crosby.
"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.
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.
In 1969, Draves was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honor Diver. In October 2006, a two-acre park in San Francisco was named Victoria Manalo Draves Park in her honor. (Thanks, Eric.)
UPDATE: Here's the New York Times obituary, which includes some really great old photos of Victoria Manalo Draves: Victoria Manalo Draves, Olympic Champion Diver, Dies at 85.