Master Student Hall of Fame|
Though Greg Louganis will always be known for his successes as an Olympic medal winning springboard and platform diver, and for his infamous dive during trials for the Seoul Olympics where he hit his head on the diving board before winning two gold medals, the story of his life is filled with many other instances where he has met and overcome challenges.
Greg Louganis was born on January 29, 1960 to parents of Samoan and Swedish ancestries; both were only 15 years old when he was born. At nine months, he was adopted by Peter and Frances Louganis and was raised in San Diego, CA. As a child, Louganis was taunted because of the color of his skin. Classmates ridiculed him because of his extracurricular interests-gymnastics, acrobatics and dance. At the same time, Louganis found his schoolwork difficult-especially reading-though he didn't learn he was dyslexic until many years later when he was a freshman at the University of California-Irvine. All of these factors led him to be extremely shy at school. He also felt anguish over his sexual orientation, which he felt compelled to hide.
When he was only 11, he scored a perfect ten in the Junior Olympics diving competition in Colorado Springs, CO. One year later he began to concentrate on his diving. He was coached by Dr. Sammy Lee, a two-time Olympic diving gold medalist, who first watched Louganis dive at the Junior Olympics. Dr. Lee helped Louganis to succeed at the 1976 Olympics in Canada, where he won a silver medal in platform diving.
Two years later, he won the platform championship at the World Aquatic Championship and the U.S. Diving indoor 1-meter and 10-meter titles. This was the same year Louganis attended University of Miami. He began to concentrate on his technique in springboard diving because the NCAA did not have platform diving.
His career as a diver continued to impress the judges. He went on to win two gold medals at the Pan American games in 1979. In 1980, the US boycotted the Olympic games in Moscow preventing him from participating. A year later, he transferred to the University of California at Irvine to train under coach Ron O'Brien.
At the 1982 World Championships Louganis won both springboard and platform titles with a perfect 10 score from all seven judges-he was the first diver to do this in international competition. At the same competition, his front three-and-one-half pike received this highest score ever awarded to a single dive-a 92.07.
Greg Louganis graduated from the University of California-Irvine in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in drama and continued to excel as a diver. At the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles he broke a record set in 1928 capturing gold medals in both the platform and springboard diving events. He was given the Sullivan Award naming him the country's amateur athlete of the year. In 1986 he was awarded the Jesse Owens International Trophy and in 1987 he was named the USCO Sportsman of the Year.
From 1981 through 1987, Louganis was undefeated in 3-meter springboard titles. He took second place at the US Diving Indoor Championships. From 1982 through 1987 he won the springboard and platform diving events at the US Olympic Festival. He garnered more gold in both platform and springboard diving at the 1986 Worlds and the 1987 Pan American Games.
While training for the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, Louganis decided to be tested for the HIV virus and found out that he was HIV-positive. He wanted to quit his diving but was convinced by his doctor to start taking AZT and push forward. The only person Louganis confided in at this time was Coach O'Brien. It was on the ninth of his eleventh qualifying springboard dives that Louganis struck his head on the diving board. Bleeding from an open wound, a frightened Louganis did not inform the physician of his HIV status. He went on to win two gold medals at the games and looking inward realized the could no longer live a closeted life. Returning to the United States, Louganis ended a relationship with an abusive partner.
After bouts of illness and drug dependency, Greg turned to the theater. In 1993, he took a part in an off-Broadway play, Jeffrey, about gay life in the nineties. Playing the role of Darius, he delivered a line that would change his thinking-"Hate AIDS Jeffrey, not life."
At the 1994 Gay Games in New York City, Louganis announced his homosexuality and HIV status publicly. He went on to urge the U.S. Olympic Committee to move the 1996 volleyball preliminaries from the Georgia county that had passed a resolution condemning gay people.
Later that year Louganis collaborated with author Eric Marcus to write his autobiography, Breaking the Surface. His book revealed information about his bouts of depression, attempted suicide, drug abuse, abusive relationships and how he is coping with his own HIV status.
According to the Greg Louganis official web site (http://www.louganis.com/), "Greg is more than just a diver, he stands out as a human being as well." Still living in Southern California, Louganis spends his time speaking to raise awareness about a number of key issues, including AIDS prevention and research, and domestic violence. He has also worked on behalf of organizations helping the dyslexic.
In a recent interview with Barbara Walters, he talked about his great love of animals, and his newest book, For the Life of Your Dog. He is currently teaching agility and obedience classes in California when he is not giving motivational speeches. He told Walters of helping young people gain self-esteem: "The primary message is to love yourself enough to protect yourselves and those that you're with. ... As a diver, I want to be remembered as being strong and graceful. As a person I want to be remembered as having made a difference."
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