Louganis is of Samoan and Swedish descent. His teenaged parents gave him up for adoption when he was eight months old and he was raised in California by his adoptive parents, a Greek-American couple. He started taking dance, acrobatics and gymnastics classes at 18 months, after witnessing his sister's classes and attempting to join in. By the age of three he was practicing daily and was competing and giving public performances. For the next few years he regularly competed, and performed at various places including nursing homes and the local naval base. As a child he was diagnosed with asthma and allergies, and to help with the conditions he was encouraged to continue the dance and gymnastics classes. He also took up trampolining, and at the age of nine began diving lessons after the family got a swimming pool He attended Santana High School in Santee, California, and Valhalla High School in El Cajon, California.
As a Junior Olympic competitor Louganis caught the eye of Sammy Lee, two-time Olympic champion, who began coaching him. At sixteen Louganis took part in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, where he placed second in the tower event, behind Italian sport legend Klaus Dibiasi. Two years later, with Dibiasi retired, Louganis won his first world title in the same event with the help of coach Ron O'Brien. In 1978, he accepted a diving scholarship to the University of Miami where he studied theater, but in 1981 transferred to the University of California, Irvine, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts.
Louganis was a favorite for two golds in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, but an American boycott of the games prevented him from participating. Louganis won two titles at the world championships in 1982, where he became the first diver in a major international meeting to get a perfect score of 10 from all seven judges. At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, with record scores and leads over his opponents, Louganis won gold medals in both the springboard and tower diving events.
After winning two more world championship titles in 1986, he repeated his 1984 feat in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, although not without difficulties: he suffered a concussion after hitting his head on the springboard during the preliminary rounds while performing a reverse 2½ pike. He completed the preliminaries despite his injury, earning the highest single score of the qualifying for his next dive, and went on to repeat the dive during the finals, earning the gold medal by a margin of 25 points. In the 10m finals he won the gold medal performing a 3.4 difficulty dive in his last attempt, earning 86.70 points for a total of 638.61, surpassing silver medalist Xiong Ni by only 1.14 points. His comeback earned him the title of ABC's Wide World of Sports "Athlete of the Year" for 1988.
At the time of the 1988 accident Louganis did not disclose to the public that he was HIV positive, a diagnosis he had received six months before the Olympics. His doctor placed him on the antiretroviral drug AZT, which he took every four hours round the clock. It was 1994 when Louganis announced to the world that he was gay. He took part in the 1994 Gay Games as a diving announcer as well as putting on a diving exhibition for capacity crowds. In 1995, Louganis cowrote his autobiography Breaking the Surface, with the assistance of author Eric Marcus. In the book Louganis detailed a relationship of domestic abuse and rape, as well as teenage depression, and how he began smoking and drinking at a young age. He also disclosed to the world that he was HIV positive.
As expected at that time, most of his corporate sponsors dropped him as a client when they heard the news of his HIV status. The exception was swimsuit manufacturer Speedo, who retained him as an endorser of their products until 2007. After his announcement, people in and out of the international diving community began to question Louganis's decision not to disclose his HIV status at the time of his head injury during the 1988 Seoul Olympics. But his blood in the pool actually posed about zero risk. The blood was diluted by thousands of gallons of water, and "chlorine kills HIV", said John Ward, chief of HIV-AIDS surveillance at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also, skin is a very effective barrier to HIV. Only a diver with an open wound would face any risk. "If the virus just touches the skin, it is unheard of for it to cause infection: the skin has no receptors to bind HIV," explained Anthony Fauci.
Greg Louganis is openly gay. After he tested positive for HIV in 1988, he recounted his story in a best-selling autobiography Breaking the Surface co-written with Eric Marcus. The book spent five weeks at number one on the New York Times Best Seller list. In a 1995 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Louganis spoke publicly for the first time about being gay and HIV-positive. His story was recounted in the 1996 Showtimemovie Breaking the Surface: The Greg Louganis Story with Mario Lopez playing the lead and Louganis narrating.
He also produced a video diary called Looking To the Light, which picked up where Breaking the Surface left off. In the years since his diagnosis was made public Louganis has been an outspoken HIV awareness advocate. He has worked frequently with the Human Rights Campaign to defend the civil liberties of the LGBT community and people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.
In the October/November 2010 issue of ABILITY Magazine, Louganis stated that the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy is "absurd", "unconstitutional", and a "witch-hunt". He added that "gay men and women have been serving this country for years … [it's] basically encouraging people who are serving our country to lie to each other."
In the late 1980s and 1990s, he took on a number of roles in movies, including Touch Me in 1997 and David Oliveras' debut movie Watercolors in role of Coach Brown, a swimming instructor in a high school.
In September 2000, he appeared on Hollywood Squares as a member of famous Olympic gold medalists "Dream Team", competing in a special week of the nationally syndicated game show series, broadcast as a tribute to the 2000 Summer Games. The episodes marked the first time that all these champions came together for this kind of television competition.
Also in 2012, he appeared in the penultimate episode of the second season of IFC's comedy Portlandia.
Among other influences, actor Michael Fassbender took Louganis's gait and mannerisms as inspiration for his portrayal of an advanced humanoid robot in the 2012 film Prometheus, stating that "Louganis was my first inspiration. I figured that I'd sort of base my physicality roughly around him, and then it kind of went from there."
Louganis competed actively in dog agility competitions with his dogs Dr. Schivago, Captain Woof Blitzer, Nipper, Gryffindor (Gryff), Dobby and Hedwig (named for characters in the Harry Potter series). He published his book For the Life of Your Dog co-written with Betty Sicora Siino.
Since November 2010, Louganis has been coaching divers of a wide range of ages and abilities in the SoCal Divers Club in Fullerton, California. He was a mentor to the US diving team at the London 2012 Olympics.
Breaking the Surface by Eric Marcus
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks (March 1, 2006)
Amazon: Breaking the Surface
This is a new edition of Greg Louganis's 1995 #1 New York Times bestselling autobiography and Literary Guild Selection. It is the unflinchingly honest first-person account of a man breaking free of a lifetime of silence and isolation.
Born to a young Samoan father and Northern European mother, and adopted at nine months, Greg began diving at age nine, and at sixteen won a silver medal at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. But despite his astonishing athletic skill, Greg struggled with late-detected dyslexia, prejudice toward his dark skin coloring and anguish over his homosexuality, which he felt compelled to hide. Being in the spotlight intensified his difficulties with relationships and substance abuse.
However, Louganis went on to win double gold medals at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics. His triumph at the 1988 Olympics came several months after he tested positive for HIV. This is the haunting, searingly candid story of the world's greatest diver. This new edition includes a new foreword.
This journal is friends only. This entry was originally posted at http://reviews-and-ramblings.dreamwidth.org/3439119.html. If you are not friends on this journal, Please comment there using OpenID.