CONCLUSION: SHE WOULD'VE BEEN RP'S 1st OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST
ATHENS (VIA GLOBE TELECOM), August 24, 2004 (STAR) By Joaquin Henson - (last of two parts) Draves’ father died a few years before she performed at the Olympics. He would’ve been proud of her. In London, she met her long-lost English relatives who treated her once to dinner at the Continental Hotel. Because England was still recovering from the devastation of war, food was rationed and steak was difficult to come by. Draves didn’t realize until after dinner that the main course was horse meat.
Draves traveled to London on board the ship S. S. America and stayed at a military barracks which served as the Olympic Village for athletes. While the US delegation sailed, the Philippine contingent flew to London. It was the Philippine delegation’s first trip to the Olympics by plane. The flight took almost forever with stops in Bangkok, Calcutta, Karachi, Cairo, Athens, Rome and Madrid before finally landing in London.
Draves said marching in the Olympic parade was an exhilarating experience.
"I can remember all the teams as we arrived at the stadium," she recounted in "An Olympian’s Oral History" by Dr. Margaret Costa. "You just feel like this one little tiny member of a huge gathering of all these wonderful athletes from all over the world. It is such a different experience. It is just magnificent. Something you just hold in your heart and you just never forget, no mater how long ago it was."
Draves said she was nervous before her last dive and US platform champion Sammy Lee told her, "You came all this distance and you’re going to give up? Get up there and do what you’re supposed to do." Draves did and some 7,000 spectators at Wembley Stadium broke into wild applause as she emerged from the water.
Draves topped a field of 16 competitors from eight countries in springboard diving. She racked up 108.74 points to runner-up Zoe Ann Olsen’s 108.23. In platform diving, Draves took the gold with 68.87 points and dominated a cast of 15 entries from nine countries. She was only 23.
Draves’ victory was celebrated by Filipinos and Americans alike. In January 1949, she visited the Philippines and was welcomed by President Quirino at Malacañang. "I was invited to the Philippines and I spent a wonderful month there," she said. "Through my diving, I was able to meet all my relatives on both my mom’s and dad’s side."
Draves quipped that she was destined to win. "Victoria can be translated into victory," she said. "And Manalo means winning in Pilipino."
Draves turned pro after the Olympics. She toured Europe and the US as the featured performer in such shows as Larry Crosby’s Rhapsody in Swimtime and Buster Crabbe’s Aquaparades. In 1950, Draves retired to become a full-time housewife. Her husband continued to coach divers and worked with several Olympians, including Pat McCormick, Paula Jean Meyers and Theyer Esparian.
Draves said she owes her career to her husband.
"I’ve been very fortunate to have Lyle and others who cared enough to take an interest in a little girl from the wrong side of the tracks in San Francisco and who was too poor to give them any financial compensation for all their help," she said. "I believe that God has a plan for people and His plan for me has been so very, very good."
Draves offered this advice to aspiring athletes:
"If they have the desire, they should follow their goals. You never know what a wonderful experience it is to concentrate on something, to set your goals and to work hard for them and then to attain the ultimate. There is so much that happens to you along the way that is so wonderful. The discipline that you learn for yourself, believing in yourself and meeting other fine people who are involved in whatever activity it is that you are trying to attain. Above all, you need to find a good coach. You need guidance."
While Draves is just one of about 850 gold medalists in US Olympic history, she would’ve been a legendary Filipina heroine if she only dove for the Philippines in 1948. As it is, the Philippines has not won an Olympic gold medal since joining the Summer Games in 1924.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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