I’ve never heard of Gold Medal Olympian Diver Vicki Manolo Draves, so it’s been an education for me to post on the Best Asian American Athletes Ever and to see what happens to them when they retire. I find their stories unique and fascinating starting from whence they came, to the barriers they broke down to achieve in their sport. Eugene Chung was the first Asian American to be drafted first round into the NFL, and Ron Darling uses his fame for both acting and doing good with his non-profit, Pitchin for A Good Cause. I hope you find these stories as inspiring as I do. Here are the next three; I am going alphabetically by last name.
p.s. The first 3 Asian American Athletes are here (Benny Agbayani/baseball, Michael Chang/tennis, and Amy Chow/gymnastics).
- Eugene Chung, football
Eugene Yon Chung (born June 14, 1969 in Prince George’s County, Maryland) was a former American football offensive lineman in the National Football League from 1992 to 1997. He is currently the Assistant to the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Philadelphia Eagles.
When the New England Patriots drafted him 13th overall out of Virginia Tech in the 1992 NFL Draft, Chung became the first Korean American player to be drafted in the first round of an NFL draft. He went on to play three seasons with New England. Chung was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 1995 NFL Expansion Draft. He played one season with the Jaguars and one with the Indianapolis Colts before retiring. Wikipedia
Eugene had a strong work ethic early in his career. “That was a big thing that Bob Herb instilled in all of us,” said Brent Newell, a 1988 Oakton graduate and fellow lineman alongside of Chung. “[Herb] was probably one of the first guys that stressed weight-training and offseason conditioning. [Eugene] was one of the disciples of that and that made him a Div. 1A player.”
Chung was selected for the Football Writers Association All-America team after his senior season at Virginia Tech. He was the first offensive lineman to win first-team All-America honors. He started every game at tackle for the Hokies in 1991 allowing just one sack in 730 plays. He was honored as the National Lineman of the Year by the Washington Gridiron Club. He played with the New England Patriots in the NFL from 1992-1994 before playing brief stints with Jacksonville, Indianapolis, and Kansas City.
“Chung, whose mother died when he was young and whose father passed away days before the New England Patriots made him the 13th overall pick in the 1992 NFL draft (first Asian player to be selected in the first round), championed a defense that helped Oakton fight back from a winless streak that spanned over both the 1985 and in 1986 seasons.” Great Falls Connection
- Ron Darling, baseball
Born in Honolulu, Hawaii to a Hawaiian-Chinese mother and French-Canadian father, Darling speaks fluent Chinese and French. After growing up in Millbury, Massachusetts, he attended St John’s High School in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts and later Yale University, managing a dual major in French and Southeast Asian history. He was set to graduate in December 1982, but was drafted in June 1981. He was a former right-handed starting pitcher in Major League Baseball who played for the New York Mets, Oakland Athletics and Montreal Expos.
Since 2000, Darling has been active in television. He worked as a broadcaster for the A’s, had a FOX show called Baseball Today, and appeared on The Best Damn Sports Show Period. He also provided baseball analysis for the YES Network, Fox Sports Net and, in 2004, CSTV. (Wikipedia) Darling had small roles in the films Shallow Hal and The Day After Tomorrow. He also played himself in Mr. 3000. In 2007, Darling was a color analyst for TBS‘ coverage of the 2007 MLB playoffs. He was paired with play-by-play man Dick Stockton. As of 2008, he provides commentary for the network’s regular-season coverage, paired with Chip Caray. During the playoffs, he joined Caray’s other regular partner, Buck Martinez.
Because of their popularity as professional athletes, Darling along with Cohen and Hernandez created a website (www.pitchinforagoodcause.org), where the net profit from the merchandise sold by the website goes to charity; specifically, the Cobble Hill Health Center, Juvenile Diabetes Research Center, and The Danbury Women’s Center. His versatility as athlete, actor, sports newscaster, and philanthropist make Ron Darling a “Renaissance Man” role model.
- Vicki Manolo Draves, diving
Vicki Manolo Draves was an Olympic diver who won gold medals for the United States in both platform and springboard diving during the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. Victoria Manalo was born to a Filipino father and an English mother. Her parents met and married in San Francisco.
She couldn’t afford to take swimming lessons until she was 10 years old where it cost five cents admission to a pool in the Mission district. It was there that Manalo met diving coach Phil Patterson, who convinced Draves to try her luck as a diver and discovered that she was a natural. She graduated from high school in 1942 and took a temporary civil service job in the port surgeon’s office to add to her family’s meager income. With Patterson in the military during World War II, Victoria looked for a diving coach and met her future husband, Lyle Draves, whom she married in 1946.
Prior to competing in the 1948 Olympics, Draves won five United States diving championships. Draves turned professional after the Olympics, joining Larry Crosby’s “Rhapsody in Swimtime” aquatic show at Soldier Field in Chicago in 1948. She went on to appear in other shows and toured the U.S. and Europe with Buster Crabbe’s “Aqua Parade.” She was elected to the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 1969.
In October 2006, a two-acre park in San Francisco was named Victoria Manalo Draves Park in her honor. Draves and her husband lived in Palm Springs, California until her death on April 11, 2010, aged 85, from pancreatic cancer aggravated by pneumonia. Wikipedia