2015 Desperado Titles

By Hans Pedersen, Jan. 15, 2015.

Back on Board: Greg Louganis 

“I think running marathons is a great way to see new cities, so I just kind of came up with a plan,” he said. “[My goal is] to see a few different cities, as well as bring some attention to the charities that I’m going to raise money for.”

The best diver in Olympic history never made it onto the front of a Wheaties box. Nor did he rake in million-dollar endorsements like all-American Mary Lou Retton – the diver says he was told he didn’t fit the right image. Yet to date, his Olympic records have never been broken.

Profiled in this marvelous new documentary, out and proud Olympian Greg Louganis was discriminated against, even before he courageously told the world about his sexuality and HIV status.

Not only was Louganis the first Olympian in 50 years to win gold medals in both springboard and platform diving, he also remains the only athlete ever to win those two medals in back-to-back Olympic games (1984 and 1988). During his second round of wins, in ’88 Games, Louganis had already been diagnosed with HIV.

Director Cheryl Furjanic has crafted a remarkable story with the documentary Back on Board, gathering all the threads of Louganis’ amazing life. Using well-preserved standard-definition video footage, the director slows down some of the shots so viewers can admire his perfect diving form.

A shocking reveal in the film is Louganis’ recollections of getting bullied when he was young. He recounts getting taunted by fellow athletes with threats of gay bashing during Olympic training.

And the danger of foreclosure on Louganis’ seaside Malibu home is another surprising drama that helps propel the film forward. Filling boxes with any Olympic memorabilia he hasn’t sold, the famed diver explains he lost the equity in his home a few years ago after getting scammed by an unscrupulous contractor, and says he’s prepared to live out of his RV.

Non-sports fans may feel like they’re treading water a bit as the film focuses heavily on competitive Olympic events from three decades ago. But the payoff is big – especially as the athlete reflects on the discovery of his HIV-status during an Olympic year, and his brave decision to come out as gay and HIV-positive back in 1989.

Also reflecting on his career in the movie are his coaches, Dr. Sammy Lee and Ron O’Brien, who point out that if Louganis had been straight, he’d have made a million.

Today Louganis says he’d wear a rainbow speedo if he could compete again, and as the final scene shows – in a dive at the age of 52 – he remains in perfect form.

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