He was the perfect specimen, an Adonis whose ability to twist his chiseled physique into breathtaking shapes made him a springboard-diving star. Greg Louganis was the face of diving during the 1980s, winning five Olympic gold medals.
But through every dive and television interview of the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Louganis kept a secret: Six months before, he had tested positive for HIV — yet another gay man who came of age as AIDS was ravaging the gay community.
He retired soon after that Olympics to pursue other goals — acting and dog training — that seemed urgent; he thought he would soon die. A youth marked by depression fueled his fatalism. "As a teenager I had half expected to be gone by the time I was 30 anyway," Louganis, now 51, says with a laugh.
He came close. His weight plummeted from 180 to 135, the result of a fungal infection. Louganis was admitted to a hospital in Florida, where he paid his bill — tens of thousands of dollars — in cash, for fear that his insurer, and then the tabloids, would learn of his disease. But, little by little, his optimism grew. He came out as HIV-positive in a 1995 memoir and switched from training Great Danes, which usually live about eight years, to Jack Russell terriers and other, longer-lived breeds that he enters into agility contests.
Louganis does yoga daily and teaches diving in Los Angeles; his life partner, Daniel McSwiney, cooks him healthy meals. Louganis says aging has changed him: "Now that I'm in my 50s, I have a lot less fear and anxiety. I may have thought I'd be dead by 30, but I feel very much alive now."