Up close with Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis
NEW YORK, July 20 — What does it take to be an Olympian? A good man to ask is five-time Olympic medalist and American diving legend Greg Louganis, widely respected as the greatest diver of all time.
Louganis earned his place in history by becoming the first man to win consecutive Olympic gold medals (1984 and 1988) in both the platform and springboard events – a feat never equalled. He also took home the gold medal in springboard at the Seoul Games in 1988 after famously striking his head against the board on a qualifying dive. After the games, he stepped out and announced he was gay, and that he was HIV positive.
Today he is back on the board, training young athletes and inspiring others with his passion for the sport. As London readies for the Olympic Games this summer, Louganis spoke with Relaxnews about his remarkable career, his focus, and which divers are the ones to watch at this year's games.
Relaxnews: In preparing for the Olympics, can you give us a snapshot of what a day in your life looked like?
Greg Louganis: A general day would start early, warm up and stretch before getting on the boards, working mostly basics and lead ups – followed by break, lunch and rest, afternoon workout with the full execution of dives. Then I would have plyometrics training or strength training, followed by aerobic dance or a jazz dance class. Maybe a while on the stationary bike. Dinner and, if I was really motivated, stretch before bed in front of the TV.
RN: What was it like to win your first Olympic gold medal?
GL: A relief! I was a part of the 1980 boycott (the US boycotted the Soviet games in Moscow that year), so instead of four years I had to wait eight years. (In 1984, after winning) the first medal, I thought of all the people who helped get me there – my parents, my coach, my teammates, and my fellow athletes. But I was also preparing for my next event – platform. It was expected that I would win both, so I needed to stay focused.
RN: What are some of your best memories of the Olympics?
GL: 1976, running around the Olympic Village with my Soviet dive team friends. 1984, I would have to say the men's 10 meter platform. I was in peak form and breaking a record at the Olympics is unheard of and I did. 1988, being diagnosed HIV positive six months prior, I was concerned. I was in a country that, had they had known, would have escorted me out, I am sure.
RN: Who are some of the standout divers in this year's London Olympics?
GL: China is the team to beat in diving in London, but there are few standouts from other countries. Tom Daley from Great Britain and Matthew Mitcham from Australia, but we also have David Boudia and Nick McCrory (from the US) on the men's platform. Women's can be open with strong competitors from Canada, Mexico, and Australia. We have (Americans) Christina Loukas and Cassidy Krug for women's three meter springboard.
RN: At the Olympics, what goes through your head when you're on the board, about to dive?
GL: In preparing for my last dive in '88, I knew I was trailing Xiong Ni by a few points, but I also knew my dive had a higher degree of difficulty. When he hit his dive, the crowd erupted and you could feel the vibration from the thunderous applause. I then told myself: “No matter what happens my mother will still love me.” Peak performance is meditation in motion. No thinking just doing. Allowing your body to do what it was trained to do, a space of “nothingness,” with just the right amount of tension and relaxation and focused energy. — AFP-Relaxnews