Greg Louganis is a four-time Olympic diving gold medalist, humanitarian, and LGBTQ trailblazer. Before joining a Zócalo/ASU Foundation streamed event titled “Can We Build a Better Summer Olympics?” he called into the virtual green room to talk about his dogs Roxy and Pax, why he identifies with Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, and leaving the world a better place than you found it.
When are you at your most creative?
I’m a morning person. So probably after I wake up and after yoga.
What's the best gift you've ever gotten?
I'd have to say my first Great Dane. It was a birthday gift. I don't have Great Danes anymore. I mean, they’re such a heartbreak breed. But that was pretty cool. And it got me into dogs. Since then, I've always had a dog, and I compete in dog agility and obedience, and I've shown at Westminster. It's been a crazy dog road.
What's your favorite book?
For pure enjoyment I would have to say Christopher Paolini's Eragon, The Inheritance Cycle. I love dragons, and I love fantasy. As far as having an impact on my life, I would have to say, Byron Katie's Loving What Is. It’s similar to Brad Blanton’s Radical Honesty. One's just gentler than the other. But it's all about getting honest and real with yourself, and what true reality is. Also, getting out of the way of yourself and the scripts that we write about other people. It's really helped me navigate.
I love how eclectic that answer is. I haven’t thought about the Eragon series in a long time.
I love it though. I go back over it and back over it again. The other one I go back over is The Hunger Games. I was at an event and they said, OK if you were to pick your character, who would it be? Katniss Everdeen would be mine. She's kind of like the reluctant hero. She just happens into it, and she's just doing what she feels is right for herself. And then it turns out to have such an incredible impact. And, you know, with me, everybody knows me for diving and, you know, I'm gay, I'm HIV positive, and then all of a sudden, it's like oh, my God, you're gay, you're HIV positive. I was the poster child. And it wasn't a role I asked for, it just was what it was.
What do you do to decompress?
Yoga and meditation. I also go hiking with my dogs. I have to have my dogs with me. As long as the dogs are with me, I'm happy. Right now I have two: Pax is my Pyrenean shepherd and Roxy is my Russell Terrier. If she could, Roxy would sit on the couch on a pillow and eat bonbons in front of the TV. She's a little princess. But Pax is game for everything.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
My mom always encouraged me to make everywhere I go better because I was there. And that has been so impactful. I try and carry that with me all the time, in everything that I do. I was talking to kids at a dive camp, and I was speaking about that. I said, you know, pick up trash, be kind of the planet, compliment somebody if they do something good, be everybody else's cheerleader. And then, after lunch, I'm going around and picking up little scraps of trash and putting them away, and one of the mothers comes up to me and said: Oh, my God, you're Greg Louganis, and you actually do that; you actually do what you say. I said, well, yeah. That's the point. You've got to set a good example for kids because they notice those things.
What year, past or future, would you like to time travel to?
That's a hard one because there's different curiosities that I have. Like, the curiosity for my heritage, my biological heritage. I'd love to go to Samoa, and see what that's like. I don't know if I'd want to do that in the present-day or, like, years ago.
But also if it's wildlife, I'd really love to go to Galapagos Islands, maybe 10, 20 years ago.
What sports figure, living or dead, would you most like to meet?
People have made a comparison between Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, and then naturally Mikhail Baryshnikov and myself. And so I would love to sit in the room with them and talk to them about how they thought of things, what their process was, because I always felt like a weirdo, and I think we could be weirdos together.
What's the last thing that inspired you?
A note from a young fan in Oregon. Somebody sent me a note sharing with me that I had saved his life. That's inspiring to me, to have that kind of impact. Everybody wants to make a difference in the world. And that for me was proof that I made a difference in somebody's life. That I could have had that kind of impact. So that goes along with what my mom said, to make everywhere you go better because you were there.