For a long time, diving legend Greg Louganis let two things get in the way of his fame, but neither was a diving board. He won the gold in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, earning two in that Olympics, two in the 1984 Los Angeles games, and a silver in the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
What did stand in the way was his latent homosexuality and his diagnosis as HIV-positive several months before he suffered a diving-related head injury in Seoul. Almost a decade later, Louganis decided to come clean about his secrets and serve as a role model to others.
Today, Louganis is actively promoting AIDS awareness in schools. He was a guest speaker with the American Psychiatric Foundation, discussing his depression following the diagnosis. Pharmaceutical company Hoffman-La Roche Inc. partnered with Louganis in the “Gaining Optimal Adherence for Life” program, or GOAL, which encourages other AIDS/HIV-positive individuals to take their medication daily. His message: a few missed doses can put a person at risk for developing a mutant strain of the virus, while maintaining consistency allows someone to live a full life. This full life is exemplified by Louganis after he battled depression, substance abuse and suicidal attempts.
For years, Louganis hid behind his talent and his medals. Only his family and friends knew he was gay and HIV-positive. Diving team members still guessed his sexual orientation, and harassed him at tournaments with “fag-busters” signs.
In 1994, he came out by participating in the Gay Games and writing an autobiography entitled “Breaking the Surface: The Greg Louganis story.” In the book, he revealed he was HIV-positive the day he hit his head in the Seoul Olympics. Critics said he should have informed the doctors treating his bleeding head of his condition, which he did after the fact, as well as other divers entering the pool. All but one of his corporate sponsors dropped him immediately.
Louganis proved several things to the public: that it was possible to be a gay and winning athlete, to be HIV-positive and an Olympic gold medalist, and to continue living a normal life. Today, he still tours the country, discussing his multi-tiered battles and giving fans more reasons to embrace this Olympian’s triumphs.