TheNew York Times once described Greg Louganis as having "pierced the water like a dart." Nowadays, the paper might say the five-time Olympic medalist's life has gone to the dogs.
When Louganis isn't traveling the country for speaking engagements, he trains show dogs. The former Olympian competes in shows across the country and trains his dogs using many of the same tactics that helped him succeed as a diver. "I do clicker training with my dogs to mark the behavior that I want them to go in," he says.Now 48, Louganis -- widely considered the greatest diver in U.S. history -- won gold medals in the springboard and platform at both the 1984 and '88 Olympics and a silver medal on the platform at the '76 Games. He is also battling AIDS as he disclosed in a February 1995 interview with Barbara Walters on 20/20. He had previously disclosed his homosexuality at the Gay Games in New York the year before ("As an Olympian and as a gay man," Louganis famously said, "I'd like to welcome you to the Gay Games.") During his interview with Walters, Louganis said he tested positive for the AIDS virus six months before the Seoul Games after discovering a former companion was dying of the disease. At those Olympics, Louganis hit his head on the board while performing a dive in the prelims. He started bleeding. According to the Los Angeles Times, a U.S. Olympic Committee doctor, who was unaware of Louganis' condition and didn't wear protective gloves, closed the two-inch gash with five stitches.
"Dealing with HIV was really difficult for me because I felt like, 'God, the U.S. Olympic Committee needs to know this,'" he told Walters. "[But] I didn't anticipate hitting my head on the board. I didn't anticipate, you know, blood. ... That's where I became paralyzed with fear." The fear is now gone. Along with his tell-all autobiography, co-written in 1995 with Eric Marcus, entitled Breaking the Surface, Louganis has also co-authored For the Life of Your Dog: A Complete Guide to Having a Dog in Your Life, From Adoption and Birth Through Sickness and Health.
These days, Louganis tours the country speaking about issues that affected him throughout his life -- AIDS, chronic depression, learning disabilities and diversity (he's half Samoan and half Nordic). On his current tour, sponsored by pharmacy benefits manager/mail-order pharmacy Medco, Louganis travels around with other athletes including Peggy Fleming, Bruce Jenner and Jackie Joyner-Kersee as they discuss living with long-term illnesses. "It's just telling my story really," he said. When he's not traveling, Louganis lives in Malibu with his companion, Daniel, whom he met online in '06. "He was very protective of me when we first met, asking if I was actually that Greg Louganis," he said. "He's there with me for whatever crazy ideas I come up with."
Still admired in the diving community, where he helps trains the next generation of divers, Louganis says he wants to be remembered as more than an athlete.
"I want to be remembered as a strong and graceful diver," he said. "But as a person, I want to be remembered as someone who made a difference."