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Verdugo Views: An Olympic diver who made a splash

August 17, 2012|By Katherine Yamada
  • Vicki Manalo Draves won two gold medals at the 1948 London Olympics. She and her husband, Lyle, provided swimming lessons at Indian Springs for many years.
Vicki Manalo Draves won two gold medals at the 1948 London… (Courtesy of the…)

Back in the 1950s, the Glendale Historical Society honored several people who had made an impact on Glendale. One was a young woman named Vicki Manalo Draves.

What had Draves accomplished to put her on this distinguished list? Well, she brought home two gold medals from the 1948 Olympics in London, and then went on to popularize Indian Springs up in Montrose.

Here’s how Mike Lawler, president of the Crescenta Valley Historical Society and columnist for the Crescenta Valley Weekly, recently described Manalo’s early years.

“Vicki Manalo was born in San Francisco to … an English mother and a Filipino father. In that era, her brown skin was a disadvantage. As a teenager, she began to get interested in diving, but sadly she wasn’t allowed into some pools. Thankfully, her natural grace, beauty and talent opened doors for her anyway, and she began to attract the attention of serious diving coaches.’’

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During World War II, the young swimmer met a professional coach named Lyle Draves.

“The two hit it off romantically and they married in 1946,” Lawler wrote in his June 7, 2012 column. “Draves trained at several pools, including Indian Springs, and won five national championships before the Olympics.”

In London, she earned gold medals in the three-meter springboard and the 10-meter platform and became one of the first Asian Americans to earn Olympic medals for the United States.

“Draves became a news sensation and America fell in love with her,’’ Lawler said. “Life Magazine named her and decathlon winner Bob Mathias as ‘Athletes of the Games.’ She toured the Philippines, where she reached celebrity status.’’

Once the tour was over, Draves returned to the Crescenta Valley. She joined a couple of the water shows that were popular at the time, but refused offers to portray South Sea Island girls in the movies. Instead, she and her husband turned their focus to Indian Springs.

The resort was a popular recreation spot in Montrose from the mid-1920s through the 1960s, Lawler noted. “It featured picnic areas, snack bars, tennis courts and riding stables, but its main attraction was an Olympic-sized swimming pool with a high-dive. Before everyone had a pool in their backyards, Indian Springs was the summer hang-out for generations of valley-ites.’’

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