On February 24, 1995, U.S. diver Greg Louganis revealed in an interview with Barbra Walters that he had AIDS, and that he knew he was HIV positive when he hit his head and bled into the pool at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.
At the time he was diagnosed in 1988, HIV was considered a death sentence. Louganis told ESPN, “It was six months prior to the Olympic Games, and I was like, well, I’m going to pack my bags and go home and lock myself in my house and wait to die.” Instead he was encouraged by his coach to continue competing and keep the diagnosis a secret.
During the games, Louganis hit his head on the board during a dive and was bleeding in the pool water. A doctor stitched his wound poolside without using latex gloves. Incredibly, Louganis went on to win the Gold medal in the event, his second at the ’88 games. At the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, he won two gold medals and became the first man to get a perfect score of 700 in platform diving.
Louganis did not reveal his HIV diagnosis until seven years after the Seoul Olympics, just before he released an autobiography entitled Breaking The Surface.
Today, Louganis remains healthy and fit at the age of 61. In 2015, HBO released the documentary Greg Louganis: Back on the Board which went on to earn an Emmy nomination. In it Louganis revealed he was making public appearances to scrape by financially after going broke. Greg told ETONline that he missed out on financial opportunities, as people were afraid to hire him, because they thought HIV was a death sentence.”
Despite his achievements in the 1980s, Louganis did not receive a coveted Wheaties box. Louganis has speculated in the past that the rumors of his sexual orientation—he came out publicly in 1994 —were what kept him from getting the honour.
Following the 2015 documentary nearly 44,000 people signed an online petition to put the Olympic diver and LGBTQI activist on a Wheaties box, and in April 2016 Louganis announced on Twitter that the effort had been a success—#GregGotWheaties.
For more stories from the 90s, check out my podcast “History of the 90s” available on ApplePodcasts, Spotify, Google Play and anywhere else you stream audio. You can also listen at http://www.curiouscast.ca