Greg Louganis speaks on overcoming challenges, living with HIV



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Greg Louganis Courtesy Photo / X90066 Buy Photos

It’s important to get in the pool, Greg Louganis told audience members Tuesday.

“That’s where success lies, that’s where your goals lie,” Louganis said.

Louganis, diving champion and HIV/AIDS advocate, spoke in the Whittenberger Auditorium in the Indiana Memorial Union on staying motivated despite challenges. He presented “Overcoming Adversity From an HIV-Positive Legend.”

Louganis was the first speaker in the Ryan White and William L. Yarber Lecture Series presented by the School of Public Health.

The series was created last year to honor Ryan White, a Kokomo, Indiana, youth.

He was diagnosed with HIV at age 13 and expelled from school because of it.

He went on to advocate for HIV/AIDS until his death in 1990.

As one of the first openly gay athletes, Louganis announced in 1994 that he was HIV positive. He then wrote his autobiography, “Breaking the Surface.”

He has worked with the Human Rights Campaign, advocating for those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS as well as the LGBT 
community.

During his career, Louganis received five Olympic medals, five world championship titles and 47 national titles.

In the lecture, Louganis was also awarded the Ryan White Distinguished Leadership Award.

Created in 2009, this award honors those who have made significant achievements in HIV/AIDS 
prevention.

Louganis and White met 
in 1986.

Growing up with a stutter and confusion about his sexuality, Louganis experienced bullying and animosity from his peers. Years later, Louganis read an 
article about White.

Louganis learned of White’s disease, the bullying he encountered at school and in his hometown and the cause he was fighting for.

Having had similar experiences in school, Louganis reached out.

White’s mom, Jeanne White Ginder, said Louganis was the first celebrity to call White and give him support.

When presenting Louganis with this award, Ginder shared stories from Louganis’ friendship with her and her family, which she said has lasted both before and after White’s death.

“I love you Greg, and if I could have a second son, it would be you,” Ginder said.

A message he tries to convey to young kids is to not be a bystander, Louganis said. He knows what it’s like to have people standing by and watching.

Sophomore Nicholas Satterfield agreed with this, saying the lecture was very touching.

“It was a very good experience to learn not to stand by and speak up for not only yourself but also others,” Satterfield said.

Louganis read the audience a note that he wrote to his 
younger self.

In the letter, he told himself it will get better. God doesn’t make 
mistakes, Louganis told 
himself.

“You will love and learn to be loved,” Louganis said. “You will get up.”

White taught everyone that one person can do so much, said Dr. William 
Yarber, senior director of the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention. Louganis held onto this thought as well.

During the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, he hit his head during a dive in the preliminary rounds.

After getting his wound stitched, he decided to continue in the competition and complete his final two dives, eventually making it to the finals.

Louganis said he couldn’t give up without a fight.

“I had to dig deep to find that inspiration in me,” he said. “And you know who that inspiration was? It was Ryan White.”

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