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‘‘‘Greg Louganis’’’ is a competitive diver and LGBTQ activist from the United States. He won Olympic gold medals in both platform and springboard and 13 world championships during his career. Louganis was the first Olympic diver to receive a perfect score and the first male diver, the second diver in the history of the sport, to win all the diving events in consecutive Olympics. He is known as the greatest diver of all time.

Childhood and Education

Gregory Efthimios Louganis was born in San Diego, California, on January 29, 1960.[1] His biological parents were only 15 years old at the time of his birth. His mother was a petite Swede and his father was Samoan. His father wanted to raise him as a younger brother, but his mother convinced him to put the infant up for adoption.

Greg Louganis overcame his fear of heights to become the greatest diver in the history of the sport.

Peter Louganis, the Greek owner of a tuna-fishing company, and his Texan wife, Frances, adopted the baby at nine months old and named him Gregory. The Louganis’s adopted a baby girl named Despina prior to Greg’s adoption. As young Greg grew up, he developed into a small, timid child who was afraid of heights and suffered a severe stutter. Peter Louganis tried to raise his son like his father raised him in “the old school,” but the meek boy did not respond well to his father’s hard parenting.

When Greg Louganis entered school, his stutter put him in a speech-therapy class. He conquered the stutter by third grade, but he discovered could not read correctly. Both his classmates and his teachers thought Greg too stupid to learn. The other children called him derogatory names due to his dyslexia and the dark complexion he inherited from his abusive father.[2]

Path to the Olympics

Greg Louganis learned to swim in the family pool at home.[3] He had started taking gymnastics around age four and started to practice his trampoline moves into the pool.

Greg Louganis may have won the Olympic gold three years in a row if not for the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Olympics in the Soviet Union.

In 1969, Louganis complained to his parents about pain in his legs and doctors discovered issues with the growth of his legs, particularly in his knees. The doctors recommended he quit gymnastics, but he refused. This resulted in his legs being slightly bowed out and creating a gap which came in handy during his diving career, since most divers’ legs blocked their view.

At age 11, Louganis entered into the Junior Olympics and Dr. Sammy Lee, the Olympic gold medal winner for diving in 1948 and 1952 turned ENT, immediately recognized Louganis’s talent. They met formally in 1975 and Dr. Lee offered to coach Louganis for the 1976 Montreal Olympics.[4] Louganis won the silver medal for platform diving in Montreal. He solidified his reign by winning in both platform and springboard at the Pan-American Games in 1979 and going on to win more than 30 national competitions.[5]

Louganis may have won more Olympic gold medals had the U.S. not boycotted the 1980 Olympics held in the Soviet Union. In 1982, he participated in the World Championships in Guayaquil, Ecuador and became the first diver to receive a perfect 10 score from all seven judges at a major international diving competition. At the 1984 Summer Olympics held in California, Louganis won his first Olympic gold. He won in springboard with more than 100 points than the silver medalist and in platform with the highest number of points in the history of diving, 710.91.[6]

Greg Louganis Hits His Head

Greg Louganis became an international celebrity, but his personal life suffered. He was dating Jim Babbit, his business manage, at the time who abused him, beat him, stole from him, and raped him at knifepoint at least once. Only six months before the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Louganis discovered he was HIV positive and told no one outside his close friends.

During the 8th round of the diving competition at the 1988 Olympics, Greg Louganis hits his head after leaving the board too straight. He attempted to do a reverse two and a half somersault using the pike position, but smacked his head on the way down. Luckily, he could still qualify for the final based on his strong performance initially. The team physician closed up his head wound while Louganis contemplated informing the physician of his positive HIV status. He eventually told the doctor in 1995, and the doctor tested negative.[7]

Life After Diving

Greg Louganis retired from olympic diving and competition in 1988. He left the diving world for over 20 years. During that time, Louganis advocated for the LGBTQ community, he revealed his HIV-positive status to lessen the stigma against those with the disease, and worked various jobs, including training dogs participating in agility competitions.[8] On October 12, 2013, Louganis married Johnny Chaillot whom he met on Match.com in April 2012.[9]

Louganis participated in an off-Broadway drama about an HIV-positive dancer in 1993. He officially came out in 1995 on the Oprah Winfrey show and revealed his HIV positive status the same year while talking to Barbara Walters. Despite the moral objections to his decision, he received much support from his fans and even his sponsors.[10]

Louganis decided to return to diving as a coach in 2011. Chris Mitchell began SoCal Divers no long after and invited Louganis to coach. Louganis agreed as long as he could use his building blocks training philosophy that differed from standard dive training. He focuses on mechanics rather than acrobatics, practice rather than competition, and the entire well-being of the diver rather than just their physical capabilities.[11]

Louganis published his autobiography, ‘‘‘Breaking the Surface’’’, in 1995. The book took the #1 spot on ‘‘The New York Times’’ Bestseller List for five weeks. His life features in the 2014 documentary film entitled ‘‘Back on Board.’’ Louganis appeared on the prime time ABC competition show ‘‘Splash and ‘‘Celebrity Splash.’’ He also regularly contributes to the Huffington Post as a gay rights activist.[12]

Awards and Honors

The Amateur Athletic Union honored Greg Louganis with the James E. Sullivan Award in 1984 for his outstanding achievements in diving. The U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame inducted him in 1985 and the International Swimming Hall of Fame did the same in 1993. Louganis won the Jesse Owens Award in 1987 and the U.S. Olympic Committee presented him with the Robert J. Kane Award in 1994.[13]

References

Bibliography

Burnton, S. (2016, August 25). 50 Stunning Olympic Moments no20: Greg Louganis’s Perfect Dive 1988. The Guardian.[2]

Crouse, K. (2011, February 20). Louganis Is Back on Board. The New York Times.[3]


Jordan, P. (1988, September 18). Greg Louganis After the Gold. Sun Sentinel.[4]

Louganis, G. (2017). Bio. Greg Louganis.[5] 
Sports Reference LLC. (2016). Greg Louganis Bio, Stats, and Results. SportsReference.com.[6]

Footnotes

  1. Sports Reference LLC, 2016
  2. Jordan, 1988
  3. Jordan, 1988
  4. Burnton, 2016
  5. Sports Reference LLC, 2016
  6. Burnton, 2016
  7. Burnton, 2016
  8. Crouse, 2011
  9. Gomez, P. (2013, October 12). Greg Louganis Marries Johnny Chaillot. People.[1]
  10. Burnton, 2016
  11. Crouse, 2011
  12. Louganis, 2017
  13. Louganis, 2017

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