Greg Louganis: one last golden dive
"Is he the one who hit his head?"
It's fascinating, what attaches to memory. The powerful and famous Greg Louganis left precise, muscular, gutsy dives strewn across three Olympics - and lost Moscow 1980 to a boycott - yet the memory burrowed most deeply into general consciousness might be one relatively middling dive in the 1988 preliminaries.
Even people who never followed the sport can recollect it vaguely.
It was the ninth of 11 qualifying dives in the springboard on that September day of Seoul. The 1984 double gold medallist descended his reverse two-and-one-half somersault pike unaware of his aerial position, and his head smacked the board frighteningly.
He returned 35 minutes later with temporary sutures for the 10th dive. Later he visited a hospital for five stitches, and said his pride hurt the most.
Ultimately, he won gold and compliments for courage, yet the ensuing platform competition might tell more of the champion. Challenged steeply from a guy half his age - the 14-year-old Xiong Ni of China - Louganis eyed the last dive of his Olympic life needing a hefty 85.57 score for a fourth gold medal.
Well, his reverse three-and-a-half somersault with tuck revealed that astounding Olympic sight: a trained expert summoning highbrow work during unbearable tension.
When his scores rang 86.70, he hugged his coach and cried.
"In a way," he said in the American magazine Newsweek, "it was the same as every other dive. You hear the tremendous crowd noise, then you enter the water and suddenly you are surrounded by silence."
Published: July 25, 2011 04:00 AM