|Full name||Gregory Efthimios Louganis|
January 29, 1960 |
El Cajon, California, U.S.
|Height||5 ft 9 in (175 cm)|
|Spouse(s)||Johnny Chaillot (m. 2013)|
|Event(s)||Diving: 1m, 3m, 10m|
Gregory Efthimios "Greg" Louganis (//; born January 29, 1960) is an American Olympic diver, LGBT activist, and author who won gold medals at the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympics, on both the springboard and platform. He is the only male and the second diver in Olympic history to sweep the diving events in consecutive Olympic Games. He has been called both "the greatest American diver" and "probably the greatest diver in history".
Louganis was born in El Cajon, California, and is of Samoan and Swedish descent. His teenage biological parents placed him for adoption when he was eight months old and he was raised in California by his adoptive parents, Frances and Peter Louganis. His adoptive father was of Greek descent. 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, so 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 Santa Ana High School in Santa Ana, California, Valhalla High School in El Cajon, California, as well as Mission Viejo High School, in Mission Viejo. In 1978, he joined the University of Miami where he studied theater. In 1981, he transferred to the University of California, Irvine, where in 1983 he graduated with a major in drama and a minor in dance.
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.
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. He was one of 461 athletes to receive a Congressional Gold Medal years later. 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.
He won two more world championship titles in 1986.
At the 1988 Seoul Olympics, his head struck the springboard during the preliminary rounds, leading to a concussion. He completed the preliminaries despite his injury. He then earned the highest single score of the qualifying round for his next dive and repeated 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.
Louganis had been a theatre major in college, and in the late 1980s and 1990s, Louganis acted in several movies, including Touch Me in 1997.
In 1993, he played the role of Darius in an Off-Broadway production of the play Jeffrey. In 1995, he starred for six weeks in the Off-Broadway production of Dan Butler's one man-show about gay life, The Only Thing Worse You Could Have Told Me, taking over from Butler himself. In the play he portrayed 14 different characters.
In 2008 he appeared in the film Watercolors, in the role of Coach Brown, a swimming instructor in a high school.
In 2012, he appeared in the penultimate episode of the second season of IFC's comedy Portlandia, playing himself.
After retiring from diving, Louganis began to compete actively in dog agility competitions; he has said that being around the dogs gave him "a sense of security, company and unconditional love". His dogs have included Dr. Schivago; Captain Woof Blitzer; Nipper and son, Dobby, both champion Jack Russell terriers; Gryff (Gryffindor), a border collie; and Hedwig, a Hungarian Puli. Nipper was named for the RCA dog, while Gryff, Dobby and Hedwig were named for Harry Potter characters, as Louganis is a self-described "huge Harry Potter fan."
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 and the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics.
From 1983 to 1989, Louganis was in a romantic relationship with his manager, R. James "Jim" Babbitt. Louganis has described the relationship as abusive, saying that at one point in 1983, Babbitt raped him at knifepoint. Louganis also accused Babbitt of taking 80% of Louganis's earnings.
Six months before the 1988 Olympics, Louganis was diagnosed with HIV; he had contracted the disease from Babbitt. His doctor placed him on the antiretroviral drug AZT, which he took every four hours round-the-clock.
For his 33rd birthday in 1993, Louganis held a "final birthday party" for family and friends, as a way to say goodbye; he was in failing health and thought he would die of AIDS soon.
Louganis publicly came out as gay in a pre-taped announcement shown at the opening ceremony of the 1994 Gay Games, having been convinced to do so by Gay Games organizers. Even before then, he led what has been described as "an openly gay life".
In 1995 he announced that he was HIV-positive, tied in with the release of his memoir, Breaking the Surface. In a 1995 interview with Barbara Walters, Louganis spoke publicly for the first time about being gay and HIV-positive.
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, given that he bled into a pool that others then dove into. Louganis has stated that, during the ordeal, he was "paralyzed with fear" that he would infect another competitor, or the doctor who treated him. Ultimately, no one was infected.
Experts maintain that the incident posed no risk to others. 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.
Louganis is a gay rights activist, as well as an 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 was "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."
Louganis recounted his story in 1996 in a best-selling autobiography, Breaking the Surface, co-written with 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. The book spent five weeks at number one on the New York Times Best Seller list.
Louganis also produced a video diary called Looking to the Light, which picked up where Breaking the Surface left off.
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. Louganis was Dive Master in the ABC Celebrity TV Diving show Splash, and the Judge on Celebrity Splash! which aired on Channel 7 in Australia.
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."
In the first episode of season 3 of the popular TV series Castle, the medical examiner describes a victim who had fallen from a window as having done "a Greg Louganis out that window up there".
Louganis was the subject of the documentary Back on Board which aired on HBO on Tuesday, August 4, 2015.
He was the subject of a short documentary, Thicker than Water, which appeared on the ESPN.com website as part of their 30 for 30 Shorts series on December 1, 2015. The documentary covered Louganis's ordeal, and ultimate triumph, at the 1988 Olympics.
In 2015, Louganis was presented the Bonham Centre Award from The Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, University of Toronto, for his contributions to the advancement and education of issues around sexual identification.
Louganis got few endorsement deals after his 1984 and 1988 Olympic victories, his one major deal being Speedo, a partnership which lasted until 2007. Some of his fellow athletes blamed homophobia for his lack of deals, since he had been rumored to be gay even before he came out. Louganis has stated that he suspects that his sexuality played a part, although he feels that in part he was simply overshadowed in the public imagination by other American Olympians, most notably Mary Lou Retton.
In 2016, Louganis was pictured on boxes of Wheaties cereal, where prominent American athletes are famously featured, as part of a special "Legends" series that also included 1980s Olympians Janet Evans and Edwin Moses. This occurred approximately a year after a change.org petition was launched that requested that he be featured, although General Mills denied any influence from the petition.
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