A must-see documentary "Back on Board: Greg Louganis" gets its TV debut Tuesday on HBO and it's a fascinating portrait of perhaps the greatest Olympic diver of all time. The film airs at 10 p.m. EDT and PDT with repeat showings during the month.
The film, directed by Cheryl Furjanic and produced by Furjanic and Will Sweeney, was a hit on the festival circuit a year ago and was picked up by HBO. I saw it last summer at Outfest in Los Angeles and thought it was brilliant. Louganis, gay and now married, has lived an amazing life, filled with incredible highs and heart-wrenching lows, but he has survived and is finally being recognized again for his accomplishments.
There has been a lot of positive media on Louganis as part of HBO's publicity, including a terrific LA Times profile. Anyone who cares about LGBT history or sports history needs to see this film.
Below are three clips from the film, plus HBO's press release and a list of air times.
Four-time Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis is universally recognized as the greatest diver ever, but his greatest impact may ultimately come from being one of the first openly gay athletes in America. The intimate documentary "Back on Board: Greg Louganis" looks at the public triumphs and private struggles of this LGBT trailblazer when it debuts TUESDAY, AUG. 4 (10:00-11:30 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.
"Back on Board: Greg Louganis" traces his story from a difficult childhood, through his Olympic conquests, to a transformative post-Olympic life, outlining the discrimination and other obstacles he has faced throughout his remarkable journey. "Greg Louganis is one of the most decorated and celebrated Olympians of any generation, and we are delighted to share his story – both personal and athletic – with the acquisition of this documentary," says Ken Hershman, president, HBO Sports. "Greg allowed the filmmakers unrestricted access to his life story and viewers will benefit from this deeply personal portrait and gain a terrific perspective on his complicated and rewarding life."
"I think it is awesome that "Back on Board" has found a home with HBO Sports. At times, it’s awkward and a little bit embarrassing to reveal so much of myself – it’s a true documentary. I am honored and humbled to share my story," says Louganis. "I always wondered what happened to Greg Louganis," says director Cheryl Furjanic. "When we first approached him, we had no idea that we would find him facing such difficulties. During the three years we spent making this film, one thing that became clear is Greg’s resilience. HBO is the perfect platform to reach both audiences who cheered Greg on during the Olympics and a younger generation who has never heard of him."
"Greg’s story is connected to so many important moments in American history, including the Olympics, the AIDS epidemic, the gay rights movement and even the recent home-foreclosure crisis," says writer-producer Will Sweeney. "Greg’s return to diving to mentor the Olympic team gave us a natural way to tell his unique story and explore his enduring legacy. We are thrilled to release the film with HBO Sports."
Now 55, Greg Louganis was adopted before his first birthday and grew up in Southern California, taking up diving at age nine. Throughout a difficult childhood, he was forced to deal with depression, bullying and prejudice. Louganis won the silver medal in the 10M Platform event at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal at age 16. In 1978, his diving skills earned him a scholarship to the University of Miami. Three years later, following the United States boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, where Louganis would have been the favorite in two diving events, he returned to Southern California to finish his degree and diving career at the University of California, Irvine.
He became a full-fledged international diving star in 1984. At the Summer Games in Los Angeles, Louganis won gold medals in the 10M Platform and 3M Springboard events. Four years later in Seoul, he became the only male diver in history to win those events in back-to-back Olympic Games. In one of the most notable moments of his storied career, Louganis suffered a cut on his head when he hit the diving board during a preliminary round of the Seoul Games, but went on to win his gold medals days later.
Though the American public originally lauded Louganis for his competitive spirit, it was not known at the time that he had tested positive for HIV six months earlier. When Louganis later announced that he was HIV-positive, it sparked outrage over his original non-disclosure of the virus and sparked a nationwide conversation about HIV/AIDS and sports. Greg Louganis announced to the world that he was gay in the mid-1990s, but it was a not a well-kept secret in the diving world before that. During his dominance in the 1980s, many sponsors knew of his sexual orientation, which limited his marketability – just one example of the homophobia and hateful rhetoric that followed him long before and after his official announcement that he was gay. Ending a prolonged absence from the diving world, Louganis has returned to mentor the next generation of American divers.
"Back on Board: Greg Louganis" offers unprecedented access to the Olympian as he struggles with financial security and reunites with the sport that he once dominated, but did not feel accepted in. The film examines the good times and bad times, including the choices, relationships and missed opportunities Louganis has experienced throughout his career as a sports pioneer.
B"Back on Board: Greg Louganis" has gained critical acclaim at prestigious film festivals around the United States. It won the audience award at the Outfest Los Angeles Film Festival and the Connecticut LGBT Film Festival, and was named best documentary feature film at the Annapolis Film Festival, in addition to capturing the award for best editing at the Salem Film Festival. The Los Angeles Examiner called the film "A perfect 10," and "a master class in documentary filmmaking," while the Hollywood Reporter wrote, "Anyone who doubts that documentaries can have the dramatic and emotional power of the best narrative films should see the Greg Louganis doc ‘Back on Board’," describing it as a "rich, satisfying story, skillfully told."
Other HBO playdates: Aug. 7 (3:30 p.m., 1:00 a.m.), 9 (10:30 a.m.), 12 (10:30 a.m., 2:00 a.m.), 13 (12:45 a.m.), 15 (7:30 a.m.) and 21 (5:30 p.m.)
HBO2 playdates: Aug. 6 (8:00 p.m.), 10 (8:15 a.m.), 16 (2:55 p.m.), 19 (3:30 p.m., 4:00 a.m.), 25 (11:30 p.m.) and 29 (1:00 p.m.).