As far as number of Olympians and Olympic medals go, the University of Miami doesn’t rank at the top. Or anywhere close, really. While there were a handful of Canes that competed in London 2012, USC and Stanford sent 40 athletes apiece (and I won’t even mention the 34 Florida Gators that competed). (source)
But while we can’t claim that we have the most golds, we can lay claim to arguably the greatest American diver that ever lived. ‘Cause when the U does something, we do it big.
Greg Louganis began diving when he was nine years old and won his first Olympic medal at age 16 at the Montreal Olympics in 1976. Born and raised in California, Louganis was looking to go away to college. Interested in Miami’s theater department as well as the 10m diving platform boasted by the UC pool, he became a Cane in 1978.
Louganis qualified for the Olympic team in 1980 but fell victim to President Carter’s boycott of the Moscow Games. But he came out strong in 1984 as, in front of a home crowd in Los Angeles, he swept gold in both platform and springboard events. This made him the first man in 56 years to accomplish this feat.
However, he’s best known for what occurred at his final Olympics, in Seoul in 1988. Not only did he repeat his double gold performance, but he did so after smacking his head on the springboard during a preliminary dive. Thirty-five minutes later, after getting his head wound stitched up, he resumed diving and won gold the next day. He’s the only male and only the second diver in Olympic history to sweep the diving events in consecutive Olympic games, and he did so with a concussion.
Openly gay and diagnosed with HIV in 1988, Louganis has since become an outspoken advocate for gay rights and HIV awareness.
Starting in March, we’ll be able to watch him on ABC’s new show Splash — think Dancing with the Stars meets The Voice meets diving. Louganis is going to be the coach for a group of celebrities that will then compete in front of judges, including London 2012 gold medalist David Boudia. I mean, if I was going to throw myself off a 10m platform, Greg Louganis is certainly the person I’d want coaching me.
But maybe it’s just a Cane thing.