Greg Louganis' autobiography, Breaking the Surface, is the story of a boy withlow self-esteem. His life is a series of misfortunes. As a young boy, Greg was made funof in school because of his dark skin, his great abilities in acrobatics, and hisinability to read well (due to dyslexia). Diving became a release, a way for himto deal with his problems. He was a gifted diver and won several gold and silvermedals at national and world championships, and the Olympics. Being in thespotlight made Greg uncomfortable which Greg had to deal with.
Greg's nextobstacle was coming to terms with his sexuality. During this period,homosexuality was not as widely accepted as it is now, so there were manypressures that Greg faced. As a result, he entered many abusive relationships.One such relationship was with a man named Tom, who cheated Greg out of a lot ofhis hard-earned money, as well as mentally abused Greg for four years.
In1988, Greg faced his greatest challenge. While preparing for the upcomingOlympics in Seoul, he tested positive for HIV. Since his health was good, hedecided he would continue with his training and go to the Olympics. Only a verysmall group of people (including his coach) knew of his status. It was adifficult call not to inform anyone, but it was his only chance at to get a fairshot at gold. This might not have been a big deal if his ninth dive during thespringboard preliminaries had not happened the way it did. Greg hit his head onthe board, spilling blood into the water. Although deeply concerned about whetherhis blood had touched anyone, Greg still kept his silence.
After theOlympics Greg continued to have problems with self-esteem, self confidence, anddepression. It was not until recently (while writing the book) that Greg was ableto realize what a wonderful person he truly is.
While I read this book, myheart went out to this picked-on little boy. I wanted to travel back in time andgive Greg a hug and tell him that things would get better. It is sad to see thatsuch an accomplished, talented diver had no confidence in himself or hisabilities despite the numerous medals he had won. Breaking the Surface is aninspirational, well-written autobiography.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.