Olympic diver Louganis consigns his Olympic medals
- Published: Aug 29, 2023, 11 AM
Three Olympic medals from American diver Greg Louganis will be presented at Bonhams in Los Angeles on Sept. 14 following a world tour with stops in New York and London.
Louganis is the only male athlete to win back-to-back gold medals in both springboard and platform events at the Olympic Games, where he won in 1984 and 1988. He earned five Olympic medals, five world championship titles, and 47 national titles in his career. Bonhams noted, “he likely would have had 2 more gold medals had it not been for a U.S. boycott of the Moscow Olympic Games in 1980, where he was a favorite to win,” especially since he won gold medals in both the springboard and the platform events at the 1979 Pan-American Games.
The auction includes his first Olympic medal: a silver 60-millimeter medal awarded in the Men’s Ten-Meter Platform, from the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada, when he was just 16. It carries an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000 and is uninscribed, but for NATATION (French for “swimming”) on the edge. Louganis came into that Olympic Games with high expectations. “Yes, I could dive well, and maybe I could win a gold, but I was still young and inconsistent,” he wrote in his 1995 memoir Breaking the Surface, explaining, “I was capable of scoring 10s but I was just as capable of scoring 2s ... I, of course, like always was convinced that if I didn’t win that medal, I would be a complete failure.”
1984 Los Angeles gold
Carrying an estimate of $600,000 to $900,000 is the first gold medal won by Louganis at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, awarded in the Men’s 3-Meter Springboard. The 60-millimeter medal is uninscribed on the reverse, with edge lettering of DIVING / SPRINGBOARD / MEN. Louganis recalled his feelings during the event in his memoir, writing, “Springboard was my first event, and from the start I was steady and focused, until the middle of the final round. Even though I tried to concentrate on nailing each individual dive, I got caught up in wanting to win gold. After all those years this was my chance, and I had trouble not thinking about the final outcome.”
His total of 754.41 was 92 points ahead of his nearest competitor.
One final golden moment
A 60-millimeter gold medal in Men’s 10-Meter Platform at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea, marked Louganis’ final appearance as a competitor at the Olympics and it carries an estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000.
It is offered with its original suspension ribbon and presentation box, the reverse uninscribed, and the edge lettered DIVING / MEN / PLATFORM.
Leading after eight dives in the preliminaries, on the ninth dive Louganis hit his head against the board, cutting his scalp. Bonhams relates in the lot description, “At that moment, Louganis broke down in tears. It wasn’t just his injury, which required four stitches and left him with a concussion; it was also the knowledge that he was HIV+.” Even with the low score on that dive, his high scores on the prior dives helped place him in the finals. He focused on what would be the final dive of his career, winning gold, thinking, “In the twelve years since I’d won the silver in Montreal, my appreciation of that accomplishment had grown.”
The sale includes other items from the diver’s career, including a U.S. Olympic flag, vintage photographs, and even one of his Speedo bathing suits. Proceeds are set to help fund the Damien Center, Indiana’s oldest and largest AIDS services center. Louganis said, “The medals, they’re in the history books. Instead of holding on to them, I’m aiming to share my piece of Olympic history with collectors.”
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