The road to becoming a championship athlete is never easy. Long hours of training can be grueling, but sometimes some of your biggest hurdles aren’t physical, or even internal.

For Vicki Draves, an Olympic diver, one of those obstacles required her to overcome racial discrimination and prejudice against Asians during World War II, even though she was a Filipino American born in San Francisco. But she persevered, becoming the first Asian American to win an Olympic gold medal.

Google celebrated Draves with a Doodle on Monday, the 72nd anniversary of her winning the gold medal in the three-meter springboard event at the 1948 Olympic Games in London. She would also win a gold medal for platform diving at the same Games.

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.

Thank you, Vicki Draves, for inspiring people everywhere to aim high and take the plunge!

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