Greg Louganis, arguably the greatest diver in the sport’s history and a man who turned in a courageous performance in the Seoul Olympics, announced his retirement here Sunday.
The announcement was a surprise, since Louganis had indicated Tuesday, just after he had swept gold medals in springboard and platform competition for the second straight Olympics, that he would go on.
“I don’t think this was my last competition,” he had said then.
But Sunday, at a press conference called by the United States Olympic Committee to announce Louganis’ selection as the winner of USOC’s spirit award, Louganis said his diving career was over.
“I’ve decided that this Olympic competition was my last,” he said. “I’m going to pursue my acting career full time now.”
Louganis, 28, who had returned to Los Angeles last Wednesday and had done a comedy routine at a nightclub, was flown back here by the USOC after U.S. reporters had voted him the spirit award winner.
The award is designed to go to the American Olympic competitor who shows special courage or overcomes extra adversity to do well. Louganis won the springboard title after hitting his head on the board during one of his preliminary dives. He got his head stitched and went right back at it.
“It crossed my mind to quit right then, after I hit the board,” Louganis said. “I took a long walk with my coach, Ron O’Brien, and we discussed how much we’ve been through together and how it would be the right thing to do to keep going and do the best I can.
“There is no way that I could have done this over the years without people like O’Brien. I’ve been with him for 10 years. And like Dr. Sammy Lee (a former Olympic diving champion). Every time something happened that would get me down, Dr. Lee would write me a letter, encouraging me to keep going. I couldn’t have done it without these people.”
Louganis said that he had been reading a number of scripts recently and is assured of a role in a movie with Will Shriner and Phyllis Diller. He said the movie is a comedy entitled “Stiff.”
Louganis won his first Olympic medal in 1976 at Montreal when he was 16, taking a silver on the platform. He has won 5 world championships, 47 national titles, 6 Pan American gold medals, 10 U.S. Olympic Festival golds and the 1984 Sullivan Award as the nation’s top amateur athlete.
He is the only diver to have broken the 700-point mark on the platform. The only other diver to win gold medals in both diving events in consecutive Olympics was Pat McCormick in the women’s events in 1952 and 1956.