By FRANK LITSKY
By FRANK LITSKY
Published: April 29, 2010
Victoria Manalo Draves, an Asian-American diver who overcame ethnic prejudice early in her career to become the first woman to win springboard and platform gold medals in the same Olympics, in 1948, died on April 11 in Palm Springs, Calif. She was 85.
Her death, which had not been widely reported, was caused by complications of pancreatic cancer, her son David said. She lived in Palm Springs and died in a hospital there.
Vicki Manalo was the daughter of a Filipino father and an English mother, in a society in which mixed marriages were generally frowned on. When she was 17, she sought to join the Fairmont Hotel Swimming and Diving Club in San Francisco. As she told The San Francisco Chronicle in 2005, the club’s coach, Phil Patterson, told her that because of her Filipino name she could not join the club.
Instead, she said, he “formed a ‘special’ club just for me — the Patterson School of Swimming and Diving.”
“I think he was a prejudiced man,” she added. “It wasn’t special for me. It was his way of separating me from the others.”
He also told her that she could not compete unless she changed her name to Taylor, her mother’s maiden name, she said. She and her mother reluctantly agreed.
“I don’t know how my dad felt,” Draves said in an oral history in 1991, “because he never said anything.”
In 1948, by then married to her new coach, Lyle Draves, she made history in the Olympic Games in London. In her first competition there, on the 3-meter springboard, Draves trailed Zoe Ann Olsen, a teammate from home, going into her last dive, a back one-and-a-half somersault. As Draves told Dr. Margaret Costa in the oral history interview, “I was so nervous that I would shake before each dive.”
Draves, at 5 feet 1, won that gold medal, then another off the 10-meter platform, her stronger event. She and Sammy Lee, the men’s platform winner and a Korean-American, became the first divers of Asian descent to win Olympic gold medals.
Victoria Taylor Manalo Draves was born Dec. 31, 1924 in San Francisco and grew up there one of three sisters, including her nonidentical twin. (A brother died before she was born.) Her father had immigrated from the Philippines; her mother, from England.
“I wanted to be a ballet dancer,” Draves said in the oral history, published by The Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles. “We were a very poor family, and there was no opportunity to extend on those desires.” She said she did not learn to swim until she was 9 or 10. “I was really kind of afraid of the water,” she said.
When she was 16, she and her sisters took a trolley (fare: 5 cents) to a pool to swim. She was introduced there to a diving coach and learned rapidly.
At 19, she met Draves, the coach at the Athens Athletic Club in Oakland, started working with him and used her name again. She and Draves, an electrical engineer by trade, married in 1946. (She was given away at the wedding by Lee.) Draves went on to coach future Olympic champions like Patricia McCormick and Sue Gossick.
From 1946 through 1948, Draves coached his wife to five United States championships.
After the Olympics, Draves turned professional and appeared in water shows like Larry Crosby’s “Rhapsody in Swimtime” at Soldier Field in Chicago and in the swimmer Buster Crabbe’s “Aqua Parade,” which toured internationally.
Draves and her husband later ran a swimming and diving training program in California, and she worked as a secretary.
She was elected to the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 1969. In 2005, San Francisco built a two-acre park in her old neighborhood and named it in her honor.
Besides her son David and her husband, she is survived by three other sons, Jeffrey, Dale and Kim; six grandchildren, one great-grandchild and her twin sister, Consuelo Sessions.
Draves always believed she was destined for diving success. In many languages, Victoria means victory. In Tagalog, a major language in the Philippines, the word manalo means win.