Breaking the Surface inspired young gay men, jocks and bookish types alike. It isn’t the fact that Greg Louganis hit his head on his ninth dive during the springboard preliminaries of the 1988 Summer Olympics and then, minutes later after being stitched up, returned to the board and executed one of his best dives (check YouTube if you haven’t seen it); his depth of character and inner turmoil were revealed later. Many people appreciate the gold medalist’s courage and honesty about his HIV-positive status, late-detected dyslexia and coming to terms with his sexual orientation. These days, Louganis gets fulfillment from writing and passing on the life lessons he’s learned. Satori is a Japanese Buddhist term for enlight- enment that means understanding. At Greg Louganis Camp Satori, young performers and athletes who are looking for help or improvement in their craft are invited to attend and come to a higher state of mind or stronger awareness regarding their art. He took some time out during his visit for AIDS Walk Austin to answer a few questions.
Tell me about what it means to be coming to Austin for the AIDS Walk. Do you have any other connection to the city or to Texas?
My mom was born and raised in Mt. Pleasant, Texas, and was raised on a farm. We spent many summers with my grandparents there, and I still have family in Texas. I have very fond memories of my time there. When I was older, my cousin and I would water-ski on the lake all day, and she still lives in the area.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the U.S. at the 30-year mark since the discovery of HIV?
Seeing young people looking and defining HIV/ AIDS as a manageable condition rather than a fatal disease, as they haven’t lived the deaths of so many in the 1980s. That is why I try to share the score of side effects of the medications to treat my HIV/AIDS; I wouldn’t wish my drug regimen on anyone, and there is a consequence to reckless behavior. I try to encourage them to love themselves enough to protect themselves and those they are with to prevent regrets down the road.
Tell me about Camp Satori. How has it been going?
The Peak Performance Retreats have been awesome! It is so great to work with kids and help them in creating a positive mindset and give them tools to succeed, as well as addressing life skills of cop- ing with adversity and taking responsibility for the good and not so good that happens in their lives.
Austin is a fitness-focused city. What’s your typical regimen during the cooler months?
Spinning, yoga, TRX, and hikes with the dogs if I have time. I do enjoy biking, but not so much on the Pacific Coast Highway.
Your nonprofit work has encompassed a range of worthy missions—including youth causes, fighting drug and alcohol abuse, and groups for the dyslexic. What area are you most passionate about and why?
The Greg Louganis Positively Pet Fund, because it is mine and I am passionate about my pets and keeping pets in loving homes with people who need their support—giving their humans the unconditional love they need at a time when they most need it.
You have inspired a generation of young LGBT people. What advice would you give those who are taking their initial steps out of the closet?
Be smart and safe about it in certain areas of the world, and the one thing that rang in my head as I was working on my book, “The truth shall set you free.”