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30 Moments of Pride: Greg Louganis comes back from injury to win Olympic gold

After hitting his head on the springboard during prelims, the HIV-positive diver steps up his game to emerge a champion.

LOUGANIS USA SPRINGBOARD DIVING
Greg Louganis at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games

For Pride month, we’ve dedicated each day of June to an individual athlete or coach whose shining moment changed LGBTQ sports.

Today: Greg Louganis and the dive that might have ended not just his career, but his life, on Sept. 19, 1988..

By the time Greg Louganis began competing in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, his world was already in a bit of turmoil. In the midst of an abusive relationship with his then-manager, the 1984 Olympic diving gold medalist tested positive for HIV six months before the games began.

Then in the ninth dive of the prelims, disaster struck when Louganis clipped his head on the springboard while attempting to straighten out from a two-and-a-half somersault.

When he hit the water, his head was bleeding and he required five stitches to close the wound.

As Louganis later recalled to NBC, “I heard this big, hollow thud and then I went crashing into the water... And then I got scared because I knew I was HIV positive.”

Once the cut was sutured, Louganis bravely returned to the springboard to complete his final two dives and even with the trauma fresh in his mind, he achieved two of his highest scores and advanced to the finals.

From there, he dominated the rest of the competition, finishing a full 25 points in first place to win the Men’s 3M Springboard Diving Gold. For good measure, Louganis also brought home the Gold in the Men’s 10M Platform with a heroic final dive that put him on top by only 1.14 points.

Six years after his career-defining triumph, Louganis came out publicly during an Opening Ceremonies speech at Gay Games IV in 1994. He has since been honored on a Wheaties box and been the subject of a documentary entitled Back on Board.

We’ll share another Moment of Pride tomorrow and every day throughout Pride Month.