Victoria “Vicki” Draves seemed as if she had been born to be in the water. An elegant diver, she was married to her diving coach and seemed a natural. To many who watched the 1948 Games, she seemed to have the world at her feet.
Yet hers had actually been a story of struggle. The daughter of a Filipino father and an English mother, born and raised in San Francisco, she had not taken her first swimming lesson until the age of 10 and grew up in a household where money was very tight. Swimming did not seem a priority, especially as her Asian-American origins led to racial discrimination, and Draves was asked to conceal her Filipino heritage and use her mother's name – Taylor – rather than her father's - Manalo.
It was only when a diving coach persuaded her to give the sport a go, at the age of 16, that her talent began to flourish. Her first national title came in 1946, the year when she married her diving coach Lyle Draves.
In 1948, she excelled with gold medals from both the 3m springboard and 10m platform, a double that is much discussed, but not often achieved – Draves was the first female diver to achieve the feat. She was also the first Asian-American to win an Olympic medal. The US was delighted, and her victories were considered so impressive that Life Magazine named her, along with Decathlete Bob Mathias, as the US's best two athletes of the Games.
With her easy smile and happy nature, Hollywood came calling for Draves, but she preferred to stick with the water and became a feature in the family water extravaganza shows that were popular at the time. She toured the US and Europe with Buster Crabbe's “Aqua Parade”, but then settled down with her husband to set up training programmes for young swimmers and divers.