Happy 56th birthday to the greatest diver of all time.
Gregory Efthimios Louganis was born in El Cajon, California, on this date in 1960 to 15 year-old parents who placed him with Frances and Peter Louganis, who had already adopted an older daughter, when Greg was eight months old. He followed his sister to dance, acrobatics and gymnastics classes and by three was practicing daily. Louganis began trampolining and had his first diving lesson at nine after the family added a swimming pool. Two years later, he scored a perfect ten at a Junior Olympic meet in Colorado Springs. Louganis was diagnosed with dyslexia, asthma and allergies and was teased for not participating in mainstream sports. He turned to taking speed and selling marijuana in middle school, ultimately becoming so depressed that he attempted suicide. At 15, Louganis moved away from his parents and into the home of famed diving coach Dr. Sammy Lee, a two-time gold medalist in the platform event. One year later, the 16 year-old Louganis competed in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, placing second in the 10-meter platform event behind Italian diving legend Klaus Dibiasi–who won his third consecutive Olympic gold medal–while finishing sixth in the springboard [three-meter] competition.
Mr. Louganis began training under legendary diving coach Ron O’Brien of the famed Mission Viejo Swim Club while still in high school. After winning gold in the platform event at the World Championships in West Berlin in August 1978, Louganis entered the University of Miami, where he was a three-time NCAA champion and two-time All-American. In 1979, he claimed first place in springboard and platform at the Pan Am Games in San Juan, a feat he would accomplish at the Pan Ams in Caracas in 1983 and in Indianapolis in 1987. Louganis transferred from Miami to the University of California-Irvine in 1981 to be able to train with O’Brien. He won gold at the Summer Universiade [World University Games] in both events in 1983 and did the same at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, registering the most lopsided springboard victory in the history of the Olympics. In those same Games, he became the first diver to pass 700 points–doing so in both events–and his platform score of 710.91 still stands as the highest point total ever recorded. After sweeping gold in both events at the 1986 World Championships in Madrid, Louganis entered the 1988 Seoul Olympics as the favorite. In the ninth round of the springboard preliminaries, he hit his head on the board, suffering a concussion and deep gash. He took sutures and returned 35 minutes later to earn the best score of the preliminaries on his final dive. Louganis then went to the hospital, where his sutures were replaced by five mattress stitches, before returning to hit all 11 dives the following day en route to the springboard gold medal. One week later, he trailed 14 year-old Xiong Ni of China with one dive left in the ten meter platform finals. Louganis nailed the most difficult dive of his program—a reverse three-and-a-half somersault—to edge Ni by 1.14 points and earn the fourth and final gold medal of his storied Olympic career before retiring in 1989.
Greg Louganis won an unprecedented 47 national titles during his career, along with three NCAA titles, five world championships and six Pan American Games gold medals. From 1982 to 1988, he swept the World Championships, Pan Am Games and Olympics. He is the first diver to receive perfect 10s from all seven judges, accomplishing that feat at the 1982 World Championships in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and is the only male diver in Olympic history to sweep the diving events in consecutive Olympic Games. Louganis is the first to amass 700 points in a diving competition and is still the only one who has accomplished that in the Olympics, which he did in 1984. He swept both the three and ten meter gold medals in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics and would likely have collected more had it not been for the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games, where Louganis was the favorite in both events. Mr. Louganis won the 1984 Sullivan Award as the most outstanding amateur athlete in the United States, received the Jesse Owens Award in 1987 and won the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Robert J. Kane Award in 1999. Greg Louganis is a member of the Florida Sports, U.S. Olympic and International Swimming Halls of Fame.