Greg Louganis - The Young Olympian
The Young Olympian
Louganis was soon performing in amateur diving contests, and at the age of 11, he found himself at the 1971 AAU Junior Olympics. The event would prove a turning point, for there two-time Olympic gold medallist Sammy Lee discovered the young prodigy. Spotting the boy's talent, he decided to take him on and coach him to the Olympics. He was the first to suggest to Louganis that he could go that far—but he still needed work. As Louganis recalled in his autobiography: "Dr. Lee told me that I didn't have a killer instinct, that it wasn't in my nature to fight.… Part of his training was to toughen me up, which I needed. He taught me to dive in all kinds of weather and to dive whether I felt like it or not." Lee also emphasized that the future Olympic champion would have to become a proper role model.
This meant losing some bad habits that Louganis had already picked up, like drinking, sneaking cigarettes, and doing drugs. He was going through a painful adolescence, fighting with his parents, getting into legal troubles, and even attempting a half-hearted suicide attempt. In diving, Louganis found the necessary incentive to pull himself together and focus on a larger goal. Under Lee's training that goal became the Olympics, and in 1976 he got his first shot at the gold. In fact, that year he qualified for both the spring board and platform events.
Despite his thrill at being at the Montreal Olympics, at age 16, the games actually proved a rough time for Louganis. His mates on the U.S. team proved less supportive and more competitive than he had hoped, and because Lee was actually not the official team coach, he had trouble gaining entry to help train Louganis at pool-side. Nervous and distracted, Louganis came in sixth in the spring board competition, but in the platform competition he seemed to regain his focus. In dive after dive he came close to matching two-time gold medallist Klaus Dibiasi, and in the end he came within 24 points of beating him, earning the silver medal. Surprised at the close score, Dibiasi told Louganis, "Next time, I watch you."