SF honors first Fil-Am Olympic gold medalist

SAN FRANCISCO – A bronze plaque, the first of its kind in San Francisco, was recently unveiled to honor Filipina American Olympic gold medalist Victoria Manalo Draves.

Draves was the first Filipino American to win an Olympic gold medal and the first American to win two gold medals in the springboard and platform diving competition in the 1948 Olympics.

The National Federation of Filipino American Association (NaFFAA) was instrumental in getting the bronze plaque at the park. NaFFAA Chief Executive Officer Rudy Asercion said, “Victoria Manalo Draves is one of the icons and one of the leaders that our Filipino youth can look up to because she was discriminated against and despite all the trials and tribulations that she went under she still triumphed and won two gold medals in the Olympics and that’s an amazing feat in itself.”

Born to a Filipino father and English mother in 1924, Draves grew up in the South of Market neighborhood which has historically been home to the Filipino American community.

Draves began diving at the age of 16 and faced discrimination when she was denied from using the swimming facilities because for her Filipino name.

She was only able to compete after changing her last name to her mother’s maiden name – Taylor.

In 2006 San Francisco named the park in her honor and the Filipino community hopes the park can be an anchor for a proposed Filipino Cultural Heritage District.

Draves passed away in 2010 at the age of 85 after a bout with cancer.

A biopic is in the works to bring more awareness to her legacy.

Future plans for the Victoria Manalo Draves Park include monthly Filipino cultural performances and a Filipino farmers market for the entire community here in the South of Market neighborhood.

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