Sunday, September 19, 2010

September 19, 1988: Bang your head

SEOUL - Greg Louganis is the most accomplished diver in U.S. history. He won four golds and a silver at three Olympics in diving, and likely would have won two more golds if the U.S. hadn't boycotted the Moscow Olympics. He was also a five-time gold medalist at the world championships, truly one of the best at his sport.

But everybody remembers him for something else:

Yep, that was him, banging his head on the diving board at the Olympics.

It's memorable, of course, because of how shocking it was. Anybody watching diving, especially novices, feel their heart skip a beat or let out a little gasp whenever some diver's head comes perilously close to the board. There's a little sense of relief when head and board don't collide. In reality, it was only a matter of time before it happened in the worldwide stage of the Olympics.

So when Louganis did it in the preliminaries on September 19, 1988, it was instantly memorable. Everybody knew they'd see it eventually, but it was still shocked when it happened.

Louganis, no surprise, suffered a concussion during the accident and he bled into the pool. The bleeding became an issue again years later when he revealed he had HIV and knew he had it during the '88 Olympics, but since HIV can't surivive in the open water, especially water with chlorine in it, no other athlete was ever in danger.

Louganis recovered from the accident to win the gold in both the springboard and the platform at the Seoul Olympics, the second straight Olympics he won both medals. He retired after the Seoul games and has become a spokesman for HIV awareness. But to most Americans, he'll always be the guy who smacked his head on the diving board.

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