Before the 1996 Olympics, an international panel of journalists selected one outstanding Olympian from each previous Summer Games.
Greg Louganis was chosen from Seoul 1988.
Wednesday marks 30 years since Louganis smacked his head on the springboard in the preliminary round of those Olympics, though he still qualified for the next day’s final and earned gold.
“After hitting my head on the springboard, I was really scared,” Louganis said in an NBC interview at prelims, after receiving four stitches and performing two more dives. “My concern was I didn’t know how bad the injury was. Fortunately, it was just a minor cut. … Those kinds of things are bad to look at [laugh].”
That wasn’t the whole story.
Louganis revealed seven years later, after retiring, that he had been HIV positive at the time of the Seoul Olympics.
His coach, Ron O’Brien, one of the few who knew, smuggled the medication into Seoul, Louganis said, because he wouldn’t have been allowed in if it was known he was HIV positive.
Louganis revisited the incident for an NBC profile ahead of the 1996 Atlanta Games.
“I heard this big, hollow thud, and then I went crashing into the water,” Louganis said. “Then I realized that was my head that just hit the board. My first feelings were embarrassment, and I was trying to figure out how to get out of the pool without anybody seeing me. And then I got scared because I knew I was HIV positive. Had I done it all over again, I would have told the doctor of my HIV status. That’s the only person that really needed to know.”
Louganis remains one of just two divers to sweep the springboard and platform at multiple Olympics, along with countrywoman Pat McCormick.
NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.
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