This previous summer I had the distinct pleasure and opportunity to meet on of the most influential LGBT athletes of our generation, Greg Louganis.
If you’re not familiar with Greg Louganis, he is a 3x Olympic Diver who competed at the 1976, 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games and is most remembered not only for being the only diver to win a gold medal in both the 3m springboard and 10m platform events but doing so after hitting his head on the diving board during the 3m prelim.
Never before had I felt impacted by such personal details of someone else’s life, especially someone whom I didn’t even know. Before I read his book I only knew of Greg Louganis as the diver who hit his head on the board at the 1988 Olympics and that he was gay and HIV positive. There wasn’t much to his story that I could relate to but I found inspiration from it.
However I look at Olympic greats like Michael Phelps, Greg Louganis, Ian Thorpe, as these amazing athletes who must have had everything laid out for them perfectly to get to the top. Greg’s story helped me to realize that even Olympic heroes and champions are people just like us. Often times facing the same struggles and challenges, if not even more difficult than any of us could face.
When I finished the book, it was a few months before the 2014 Gay Games and I felt like I got to know a really good friend. I wanted to reach out in some way and tell Greg about the kind of impact his story had and that I was looking forward to seeing him in Cleveland. I went onto his website and sent my email to the contact address. To my surprise I got a response from Greg himself! We ended up exchanging a few emails back in forth and he asked me a little about my goals and myself, he was very kind and friendly and really made my day to hear back from him.
The following spring I learned that the Cinema Q Film Festival, which features LGBT specific films, would be featuring Back on Board. Of course I bought my ticket as soon as I could and then soon learned that they had invited Greg to make an appearance at the screening. Of course I was excited, my missed opportunity at the Gay Games was suddenly making a come back right back here in Denver.
On the day of the premier I was a bit nervous going in, wanting to make sure I stayed cool and tried not to be star struck and of course not wanting to say the wrong thing or flubbing my words and end up an incomprehensible mess. It’s like the nerves of a first date with your crush but you only have a couple minutes. The film itself was really great, essentially a follow up to Breaking the Surface and particularly focusing on Greg’s return to the diving community and his role as mentor for the young athletes on Team USA preparing the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics.
When I met Olympic diver Matthew Mitcham at the 2010 Gay Games there was a big crowd of people and cameras around him I remembered the advice a friend gave me then, “don’t hesitate” he said. During the post film social with Greg I chatted with friends while I eagerly waited for Greg to make his appearance and mingle with the crowd. When he did I made my way over and waited patiently as he signed autographs, took pictures and chatted with other people. Finally a moment came, a split second from the end of someone’s conversation where nobody approached him and I didn’t hesitate.
I mentioned that I was at the Gay Games luncheon and we exchanged a few emails, it clicked for him and he instantly remembered me! Gave me a hug and we chatted a few minutes, I shared with him a little of my story and asked about his and his experience coming back to diving. We couldn’t chat for long as there were still a lot of people patiently waiting for their opportunity so I asked him if we could take a photo. I immediately left the theatre after that with a smile on my face, happy that I finally got my opportunity to meet and get a photo with Greg Louganis one of the greatest divers in Olympic history.