You can see diving legend Greg Louganis as a judge on ABC’s new reality show “Splash” nowadays, but when I met him, he was an earnest young man whose Olympic career was ramping up. He had won two of the four gold medals that would ultimately be his – in addition to his many medals and titles from competitions worldwide.
On that day in 1986, Louganis was telling me about his crazy-busy life. As spokesman for the National Spa & Pool Institute (now called the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals), he spent a lot of time promoting safe diving and swimming practices. “I’m really glad they used me – a diver – as their spokesman,” he said. “It’s a good way to promote the sport.”
And NSPI was glad to get the most decorated U.S. diver in history as a spokesman for three years. Louganis was featured in a multimedia campaign involving TV and radio PSAs, educational films, public appearances, brochures and posters. “We expect that he’s going to help our industry tremendously,” said NSPI President Les Kowalsky. Sure enough, Louganis’ fame brought NSPI’s message to many media outlets.
Perhaps his best-known promo was “Don’t drink and dive,” which he also used in his other role as a speaker in a community-service program that reached out to teens and children, urging them to avoid drugs. “Healthy choices – that’s the message I try to get across,” Louganis said. He toured campuses, conducting Q&As and using his own past experiences with alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana and amphetamines during high school years as a springboard.
“It’s part of being a role model,” he said as we chatted at the NSPI National Expo in Washington, D.C. “I answer the kids’ questions about diving and drugs, talking with them. They have too many people lecturing to them.”
After my Louganis interview appeared in Pool & Spa News, I was surprised to get a letter from the maker of Styrofoam, scolding me for stating that the diving champ was fidgeting with a Styrofoam cup. While that trademarked foam product is used to make many products, a disposable drinking cup is not one of them, and now you know, too!