Former Olympic diver Greg Louganis is nervous — and it’s not because he’s standing on a diving board 10 meters above the water. He’s about to dive below another surface entirely with Saturday’s screening of the documentary “Back on Board: Greg Louganis” at the Directors Guild of America as part of Outfest, Los Angeles’ LGBT film festival.
“It’s a little scary because it is so personal,” Louganis said in a phone interview from his husband’s Beverly Hills apartment. “I have trouble asking for help sometimes, so it’s a little scary to know I’m going to have so many friends in the audience. I can’t believe I’m sharing this, but I’m proud of it.”
The documentary, which premiered at the AFI Docs Film Festival in June, stitches together footage of Louganis’ rise to success in the world of diving with his personal struggles, past and present: discovering his sexuality, living with HIV and trying to find financial security during the recession.
The openly-gay athlete previously chronicled his life in his 1995 New York Times bestselling autobiography “Breaking the Surface,” which revealed his sexuality and HIV status publicly for the first time. Louganis said the images in the film “speak a thousand words,” telling his personal story alongside that of the nation’s fight over gay rights and the battle against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The independent film, directed by Cheryl Furjanic, raised over $55,000 on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter. That enabled the crew to travel with Louganis to London in August 2012, where he worked with the U.S. Olympic Diving Team as a mentor and renewed his involvement with the sport. Louganis retired as a diver in 1988 after winning his fourth and final gold medal in the Seoul Summer Games.
The film is currently shopping for a distributor, and Louganis hopes it can reach a wider audience to share the message of his experience.
“It’s bigger than me and who I am,” Louganis said. “I was that suicidal kid when I was growing up, thinking there was something wrong with me because of my sexuality. [I hope] to be able to share those moments with other young kids, give them the strength and encouragement and validate that they can make a difference just by being themselves.”
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