The road to becoming a championship athlete is never easy. Long hours of training can be grueling, but sometimes some of your biggest hurdles aren’t physical or even internal.
For Vicki Draves, an Olympic diver, one of those obstacles required her to overcome racial discrimination and prejudice against Asians during World War II, even though she was a Filipino American born in San Francisco. But she persevered, becoming the first Asian American to win an Olympic gold medal.
Google celebrated Draves with a Doodle on Monday, the 72nd anniversary of her winning the gold medal in the three-meter springboard event at the 1948 Olympic Games in London. She would also win a gold medal for platform diving at the same Games.
Draves was born Victoria Manalo in San Francisco’s South of Market District on Dec. 31, 1924. She couldn’t afford swimming lessons until she was 10, paying five cents to get into the Red Cross in the city’s Mission district.
“It didn’t matter that Vicki was half Filipino (not Japanese) and a contender for the Olympic Team. If she were allowed to practice in public pools, they would often drain the pool after she finished training,” her family told Google.
At 17, she was told if she wanted to compete, she needed to take her mother’s maiden name — Taylor — which she reluctantly did. In 1946, she took the last name of her husband, Lyle Draves, an electrical engineer who would coach her to five US championships between 1946 and 1948.
After the Olympics, Draves turned pro, appearing in water shows that toured internationally. She and her husband also ran a swimming and diving program in California.
Draves was elected to the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1969. in 2006, a two-acre park named Victoria Manalo Draves Park was dedicated in her honor in San Francisco’s South of Market district, just a few blocks from where she was born and raised.
Draves died in 2010 at the age of 85.