THE SEOUL GAMES / DAY 11 : Louganis Dives Right Into History : He Repeats His Double Gold-Medal Feat of 1984 on Final Chance of Games

Times Staff Writer

Even before the winning scores flashed on the board, Greg Louganis was in the arms of his coach, Ron O'Brien, crying tears of relief.

It was finally over. He had stood up to the pressure that had continued building right up until the moment that he left the 10-meter platform for the last time.

He had hit that last, most challenging, most dangerous dive--a reverse 3 1/2 somersault tuck with a difficulty rating of 3.4--to win his second gold medal of the 1988 Olympic Games at the Chamshil Swimming Pool Tuesday morning.

In order to add the gold medal for platform competition to the gold medal he already had won here on the 3-meter springboard, he needed to score 8.5s on his final dive. He needed more than 85.56 points to beat 14-year-old Xiong Ni of China on the 10-meter platform in the closest international competition he has ever won.

And he did it.

Louganis averaged 8.5s to score 86.70 points on the dive, finishing with 638.61 points. Xiong took the silver with 637.47 points. A distant third, with 594.39 points, was bronze medalist Jesus Mena of Mexico.

With the dive, Louganis completed the sweep of Olympic gold for the second time. He also won gold medals on both the springboard and platform in Los Angeles in 1984.

Added to the silver medal he won on the platform in the 1976 Games, Louganis has five Olympic medals. He joined Pat McCormick as the only diver to sweep gold medals in consecutive Olympic Games. McCormick did it in 1952 and 1956.

It is just possible that Louganis will go for two more in 1992 at Barcelona. He is considering taking a year or two off and then coming back to compete on the 3-meter springboard and the 1-meter springboard. He'd like to win the first gold medal on the 1-meter springboard when that event makes its Olympic debut.

Immediately after the awards ceremony, Louganis was asked about his plans.

"I'm looking forward to taking some time to pursue my career as an actor," he said. "That's next on my agenda. I don't think this was my last competition, but it might be my last world-class competition, as far as FINA Cup or Olympics.

"This has been a rough couple of weeks, with hitting the board and everything. . . . The pressure is great out there."

Louganis hit his head on the springboard during the preliminary round, got a few quick stitches and came back to hit his last two dives. The next day, he won the gold. That was a week ago.

Since then he's been sitting in his room at the Athletes' Village reading movie scripts. Every time he goes out, he gets mobbed. Friends were taking him his meals.

And the pressure has been tremendous to sweep the gold. He was the overwhelming favorite, even though he knew well the potential of his young challengers.

At 28, Louganis is competing against divers half his age.

"I have been diving together with (Xiong) in other competition in the past, over the last year, so I've seen him grow and develop," Louganis said. "It's been an exciting thing to see. It was no surprise to me that the competition came from his corner. He is very talented."

Xiong put the pressure on Louganis by scoring consistently on a list of dives that have almost as much difficulty as those Louganis performed--and Louganis has been working on his dives for years. He uses the same list that he used in 1984. "It is an honor to compete against Louganis, he is such a wonderful athlete," Xiong said. "He is such a strong competitor. He has been one of my idols. I am very proud, indeed, to compete side-by-side with him."

It was quite a competition the two waged. They were never more than 10 points apart, although both dropped to as low as fourth place as other divers had some big scores on difficult dives early in the contest. But they both remained consistent while others in the field took themselves out of the running.

Xiong took first place from Louganis after the eighth round when he scored 73.08 points for a total of 470.76 points on a reverse 2 1/2 somersault pike while Louganis scored just 63.00 points on his forward 3 1/2 somersault pike.

Xiong held on to first place through the ninth round, when he and Louganis did the same dive, a back 3 1/2 somersault tuck. Xiong scored 84.19 points on it; Louganis 83.16.

So when Xiong scored 82.56 points on an inward 3 1/2 somersault tuck and turned the platform back to Louganis for the opportunity to top that, it was time to test his competitive nerve.

As O'Brien said when he it was over: "It doesn't get much closer than that."

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