Olympian and LGBTQ leader Greg Louganis shares lessons in resilience

If you look in the dictionary under “resilient” you might well see a photo of Greg Louganis. The five-time Olympic medalist and world-renowned diver has repeatedly triumphed over adversity, winning five World Championship titles and 47 national titles – more than any person in U.S. history.

Then, after coming out about his HIV status during a time when fear and stigma surrounding the illness were high, Louganis became a tireless advocate for LGBTQ rights.

Louganis shares his insights in daily “Morning Thoughts” social media posts in the hope that others can be inspired to take charge of their lives. He’s also revamped his how-to course, “Finding Your Rhythm,” which he offers on his website.

“As an LGBTQ fan of the Olympics, Louganis is someone I’ve looked up to my whole life,” notes Charley Cullen Walters, producer of the Gold Meets Golden charity event platform, which helps Paralympians. “He felt like a pioneering role model at a time there were very few others, and his story will go down in history as inspiring many more people than I think he even realizes.”

“The most important thing in life I’ve realized is that everything will change – whether it’s a good or bad situation, it doesn’t matter. Life is in perpetual motion,” says Louganis. “Achievement keeps you humble.”

For fun, the 62-year-old Louganis enjoys training his dogs in agility, a sport he got into some 20 years ago. In fact, in September, he’s getting in an RV and heading to a regional obstacle competition in Prunedale, California. “If I could, I would travel the world competing with my Hungarian Pumi and Pyrenean shepherd!” he says with a laugh.

Q. You have come back from immense disappointments many times. What has kept you going?

I don’t spend too much time judging my life, I just live it. Disappointments are just challenges – often, to create change, it is important to just be yourself for others to see and get to know you as a person and not a label.

Q. After you competed in the Olympics, it was big news when you came out and acknowledged your HIV status. 

I came out about my HIV status when there wasn’t much compassion or understanding about the virus. It did open a conversation that was very much needed to gain a better understanding. I got a lot of criticism for withholding that information at the 1988 Olympics. We’ve come a long way now, in terms of treatments and managing the virus. A lot of education and development has happened. HIV/AIDS isn’t what we used to think of it, back in the ’80s – that it was a death sentence. So it’s much more manageable.

There’s still a stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS because people don’t quite understand it. I believe there is more education that we need to do.

Q. Nowadays, it feels like athletes feel more comfortable about expressing their sexual identity. What do you think caused this change in acceptance?

It’s been wonderful to see how times have changed, with sexual identity and preferences expressed by young people today. The visibility of so many more positive images of what LGBTQAI+ looks like in TV shows, and in the press, has been great. Shows like “Will and Grace” and “Queer Eye” helped people see more positive expressions of people within this group of individuals. These shows shine a light on gay relationships and transgender, educating people about that whole journey.

Q. You recently revamped your motivational course. Why did you decide to do this now, and what do you hope to offer that will be different from other self-help classes?

I am not sure I would categorize the course as “motivational,” more tapping into our full potential, finding one’s rhythm, bringing awareness to higher peak functioning. I use the tools I received as a child and throughout my adult life to help navigate being and doing my best. It’s more of a well-rounded course now.

Utilizing the tools of breathwork, getting in touch with the intelligence of the body, relaxation and visualization have all been key components of all of my success – from speaking in front of thousands of people, to performing onstage in acting and dance, even doing a one-man show in NYC, and winning Olympic gold on the world stage. I present the coursework as games, and that I have learned to break down the barriers of self-limitation through the use and practice of these tools.

Q. You have a new podcast in development. What do you like about that platform, and what are some programs you enjoy listening to?

The podcast is a platform for me to explore what I am interested in. Exploring challenging questions and getting to see and hear differing points of view, from ideas of transgender in sports, to adoption and the question of what “family” means to me.

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I listen to friends like James Van Praagh, and to great minds I admire like Eckhart Tolle, Dr. Mark Hyman and others.

Q. Being in your 60s now and still quite fit, what can we non-Olympians learn from your approach to exercise?

We all have much to learn from each other. It doesn’t matter what you have achieved; you don’t have to be an Olympian. We can learn much about mindset from those who have expressed their creation in a more public way, but not absolutely necessary to live a successful life.

Q. What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?

Hold things, thoughts, ideas, people, everything with a light touch. This is a practice I do. It allows people to be who they are, and things and events that happen just be. Accepting things how they are and not making them into what we would like them to be.

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