Greg Louganis speaks out on Florida's LGBTQ law before Swimming Hall of Fame reopening
FORT LAUDERDALE — Olympic diving legend Greg Louganis acknowledges a strong relationship with South Florida despite being a Californian.
The four-time Olympic gold medalist attended the University of Miami for two years and trained for three years at Mission Bay leading up to the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul. He’s also trained periodically at the famed Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Center that houses the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Louganis, who turns 63 Sunday, is bothered by the Florida Legislature passing Gov. Ron DeSantis’ so-called "Don’t Say Gay" law last year. The law, formally known as the Florida Parental Rights in Education Act, governs classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation.
The law allows parents to sue if such discussions take place with students not deemed “age-appropriate.’’
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Louganis, who attended Saturday’s grand reopening of the aquatic center after its $44 million refurbishing, took issue with Florida's new law.
“That’s so silly," Louganis told The Palm Beach Post before the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “I’m a gay man, identify as a gay man. So I can’t identify myself who I am? It’s ridiculous."
The schools are exactly the place, Louganis believes, where it's paramount not to sweep "LGBTQ" under the rug.
“It should be discussed," Louganis said. “That’s causing a lot of pain and suffering for young gay kids who are trying to find themselves. There’s a huge, huge influx of suicides that happen because of this stupidity."
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Louganis was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993 after an unprecedented 47 national and 13 world championships. Engraved on the sidewalk outside the Hall is a sponsorship plaque that reads “International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics."
Louganis, arguably the country's most famous gay athlete, was asked whether he would consider reaching out to the governors of other states that have passed similar legislation.
“People hear what they want to hear," Louganis answered. “All I can do is live my life, live authentically, openly and not be ashamed of who I am."
Is Louganis the GOAT of diving?
That would also be the greatest diver ever.
“I just did what I did," he said. “Everyone else is saying, 'yeah, you’re the GOAT, a legend.' I’m shocked my records still hold. You don’t achieve greatness on your own. My coach Ron O’Brien, we went through that together."
The San Diego native continues to step forward as he recently announced he would be auctioning off three Olympic medals (1976 silver, 1984 and 1988 golds) with part of the proceeds going to charity, including the Damien Center — the largest AIDS care provider in Indiana.
Louganis wouldn’t confirm if the medals have sold, saying, “There’s a private sale and we’re talking right now."
“My hopes and dreams are we get enough for them to donate to the Damien Center that is bursting at the seams in Indianapolis," Louganis said.
Louganis’ presence Saturday in Fort Lauderdale will only boost the chances of the newfangled high-diving competitions becoming a sport for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. The facility boasts the lone 27-meter diving board (900 feet). It stands as the only permanent diving structure that tall in the Western Hemisphere (the other one is in China).
Louganis admits he’s never leaped from a diving board that high in the sky.
“I’ve jumped off a 15-meter with Matthew Mitcham when he was inducted (in 2022) and we jumped off together," Louganis said. "It hurt my feet. The tricks they are doing is incredible, pushing their limits. It’s come a long way. We need more young kids participating to get (it) accepted as an Olympic sport."
Louganis joined by Sam Dorman, Dara Torres at ceremony
Indeed, Louganis’ presence was a boon and he was joined by Olympic stars Sam Dorman and Dara Torres in Fort Lauderdale. Louganis has a full shock of white hair — a silver bullet as he gave a pre-ceremony diving demonstration.
While the two-year renovation of the aquatic center is complete, the Hall of Fame's expansion is ongoing with another tower being built alongside the others.
“Greg is a Hall of Fame diver and puts the 'fame' in Hall of Fame as far as diving," CEO Anne Schmidt said. “We’re so thrilled having him here at the grand reopening where he once trained. There’s a lot of history here."
Olympic divers have trained here since the 1950s. "It’s the epicenter of the diving world," Schmidt said. "Having a 27-meter diving structure allows for consistency for the new generation to grow into the sport."
Louganis was swarmed by fans eager to take a picture with him and his Hungarian Pumi, Gene.
"It’s great to have (diving) platforms 15 (meters), 20, 24 and 27 to introduce kids to the sport of high diving,'' Louganis said.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Greg Louganis takes issue with Florida, DeSantis anti-LGBTQ laws