High Flyers The Greg Louganis-led U.S. engages China in aerial combat

September 13, 1988

''EVERY COMPETITION HAS ITS unique challenges,'' says history's
greatest diver in a soft, measured voice. ''They're never the same,
and they're never easy. Never.'' In Seoul, the incomparable Greg
Louganis, 28, a four-time Olympian who has raised his sport to a
higher level during the past decade (see chart on pages 86 and 87),
will try to become the first male diver to repeat as gold medalist in
springboard and platform. It will be the sternest test of his career.

Louganis, now graying at the temples and eight pounds more muscled
than when he triumphed at the L.A. Games in 1984, will have to
perform better than ever to hold off the steadily improving Chinese
divers who have occasionally beaten him in the past few years, most
notably '84 springboard silver medalist Tan Liangde and platform ace
Tong Hui. Louganis will do the same dives he did in Los Angeles, with
-- he hopes -- cleaner entries into the water. No-splash entries have
been the focus of his training since mid-June, when he cut back on
personal appearances and his dance and acting work to focus on his
task in Seoul.
The tiny young acrobats from China -- both men and women -- will
dazzle spectators by spinning through blindingly fast somersaults and
slipping into the water without a trace. Led by springboard world
champion Gao Min, 18, and 14-year-old platform specialist Chen
Xiaodan, the Chinese women will try to go one-two in both events, and
the team hopes to win eight medals overall; with each country allowed
two entrants per event, that's the maximum possible. Actually, so
many adolescent diving stars are emerging back home that the Chinese
have been secretive about whether they'll even bring to Seoul an
oldtimer like Tong, 25. ''They might have an eight-year-old in
there,'' jokes U.S. coach Ron O'Brien.
China's youngsters won't have it easy against an older, taller
U.S. team that includes not only Louganis but also '84 silver
medalists Kelly McCormick (women's springboard) and Michele Mitchell
(women's platform). O'Brien says his squad can win five medals. The
Chinese may also have to deal with peer pressure on the platform: 4
ft. 9 1/2 in., 75-pound Soviet whiz Elena Miroshina, 14, who has a
history of blowing up in pressure situations, could steal the gold if
she puts together a consistent final round. But then, the Chinese
have also been accused of choking. In L.A., they faltered and won
only three medals after being expected to do much better.
''They're not Louganises as far as being untouchable,'' says
McCormick, 28. ''They're human. They're young.''
Of course, Louganis may now be touchable by the Chinese -- which
is why this diving competition will be exciting to watch.

CHART: NOT AVAILABLE
CREDIT: NO CREDIT
CAPTION: NO CAPTION
DESCRIPTION: Record of Greg Louganis in diving events, 1976-1988.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)