[SPORTS] Greg Louganis - Diver
- Greg Louganis
Olympian moves onto a Different Chapter
By Joyce Caoile for AIA
Greg Louganis about to execute another perfect dive.
Before the publication of his autobiography, the public knew only
simple facts about the Olympic diving champion, Greg Louganis. Born
in 1960 to teenage parents, a Samoan father and a European mother,
adopted at 9 months by a Greek father and a Texan mother. Public
curiousity soared after 1988 Olympics in Seoul when he gashed his
head on the diving board at the preliminaries, and then continued on
to win two gold medals.
Growing up in the San Diego, California area, Louganis joined dance
competitions, then ventured on to acrobatics, gymnastics, and later,
diving. The criticism he faced in school, his later diagnosed
learning disability, and his fear of his father made him feel
worthless. Fortunately, his coaches saw his potential early and
helped him train for and win diving competitions. By hiding behind
his athletic abilities, Louganis avoided confronting his emotional
In the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, he met a Russian
competitor, "Yuri" - his first crush. In describing his feelings, he
wrote, "I felt protected and taken care of by him, like with an
older brother." Louganis had several more relationships where he
sought approval and protection. In between peaks of bliss were
troughs of depression and anxiety where he found temporary comfort
in alcohol and drugs. His unsuccessful suicide attempts forced him
to concentrate on his diving, and upon retirement after the 88
Games, with theatrical performances and acting classes.
With fellow Olympic gold medal winners
on the cover of Newsweek.
Starring as Darius in the play, Jeffrey, "turned out to be even more
therapeutic for me than I thought it would be. For me playing Darius
was like a dry run of what I thought my life might be like down the
line. I got to be publicly gay without being self-conscious. Darius
was totally out and proud, not at all afraid of being himself. In
some ways playing Darius was more satisfying than winning a gold
medal at the Olympics, because it was much more challenging than
diving. With Jeffrey, I had to convey emotions and thoughts through
spoken and unspoken language - which was never easy for me. The
experience of performing in Jeffrey really opened up my life. The
renewed hope gave me just what I needed to make a couple of big
decisions. One was to get off the painkillers I depended on to get
me through the day. " Though hiding behind a character, Louganis
felt as though the emotional connection he had with Darius and all
that he represented allowed Louganis to start accepting himself.
Behind the curtain, he started seeing some light.
Louganis was diagnosed with HIV shortly before the 88 Games. For
many HIV positive patients, proper diet and regular exercise
complement their medications and help them remain healthy. For
Louganis, diet and exercise are vital to his health, but it's his
dogs that give him energy, solace, and hope. "When I feel most
scared and insecure, they sense this and stay closer to me. When my
treatments or their side effects are most debilitating, we stay in,
snuggle into bed, and the dogs don't leave my side."
Louganis seen here with Barbara Walters and coach/mentor, Dr. Sammy
Lee, the first Korean American Gold Medal winner.
Using his experience as owner, rescuer, activist, professional
trainer, volunteer groomer, and breeder, Louganis co-wrote a book
about "canine language." Admittedly, his passion for dogs and dog
care surpasses his love for diving. The foundation of his book is
explaining that owning a dog is a responsibility - a commitment that
may not be suitable for a person without time to devote. Some may
think that Louganis is hiding behind the Great Danes and other dogs
he has, and he accepts that, and admits some truth to it.
When with his dogs at public appearances, Louganis continues to be
shy talking about his life, but can ramble on about Freeway, Ryan,
Speedo... Since he credits them for his optimism, this proud "Daddy"
devotes his life to his passion for dogs. He said that diving is
only one chapter in his life, a chapter that has now ended.
Sources: Harasta, Cathy. "Olymplic Diving Legend Pursuing Artistry
in Arenas Oustide Pool." The Dallas Morning News, 28 July 2002.
Louganis, Greg. Breaking the Surface. New York: Random House, 1995.
Louganis, Greg. For the Life of Your Dog. New York: Pocket Books,
1999. All images courtesy of www.louganis.com