If we were all amazed by Hidilyn Diaz’s achievements and her latest triumphs in both the Olympics and SEA Games, here’s something we have to know of: the Philippines has a great number of athletes that have made history in the world not only in the field of weightlifting, boxing, and gymnastics, but as well as in diving.
In 1948, the Filipina springboard diver, Victoria Manalo made history by becoming the very first woman to achieve diving’s golden double on 3m springboard and 10m platform. This achievement has always been the dream of most professional divers, but very few have actually lived to its realization. Aside from being the first female diver to achieve such feat, she was also recognized as the first Asian-American to win an Olympic medal.
Victoria Manalo’s achievements were greatly celebrated and considered so impressive that Life Magazine gave her the moniker as one of USA’s Best Athletes of the Games, alongside decathlete Bob Mathias. Unfortunately, this groundbreaking feat also came with a lot of struggles and prejudice, including racial discrimination.
Let’s Get to Know the Life of Victoria Manalo Draves
Born in San Francisco on December 31, 1924, Victoria was raised by her Filipino father and English mother at a time when intermarriages were not widely accepted yet. Growing up in a household that is tight on money, swimming never did enter the champion’s mind as she was also not given the opportunity to extend on those desires. She even admitted to having been afraid of the waters.
After learning how to swim at 10 and getting persuaded by her diving coach to give the sport a go at 16, her talent started to flourish even more. She sought to join the Fairmont Hotel Swimming and Diving Club at 17; however, bearing the Manalo family name, she was first told that she could not join the club. After being told that she could not compete unless she changes her family name, Victoria was forced to use her mother’s family name, Taylor, rather than her father’s.
Victoria’s first national title came in 1946 – the same year when she got married to her diving coach Lyle Draves. Two years after, she made history in the Olympic Games in London by winning gold medals in both the 3m springboard and 10m platform. She became the very first female diver and Asian-American to achieve such designation.
In 1969, she was elected to the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Because of her contributions to this field, in 2005, a two-acre park in downtown San Francisco was named in her honor. Victoria Manalo Draves died in 2010 – but her legacy and achievements as a woman of color continue to inspire many Filipinos and athletes from all over the world to continue pursuing their dreams despite the difficulties faced by gender bias and racial discrimination.