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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 7, 2010

Diving: Louganis returns to roots as mentor for USA team

Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. Greg Louganis says he's ready to help U.S. divers regain the Olympic podium.

The four-time Olympic gold medalist is making his debut as a mentor to up-and-coming Americans at this weekend's USA Diving Grand Prix at the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Center. His involvement comes nearly 22 years after he defended his gold medals in 3-meter springboard and 10-meter platform at the 1988 Seoul Games.

"To be invited back to a mentoring program and to help bring back the fun into diving is great," Louganis said Friday.

The U.S., a one-time diving superpower, didn't win any medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics or the 2008 Beijing Games. Laura Wilkinson was the last American medalist, winning platform gold at the 2000 Sydney Games.

"It's time to get somebody on the podium, but in order to move in that direction we need to get everybody on board and into the right frame of mind and the right thinking," Louganis said. "It's not to focus on results, as you're not going to make huge leaps to a gold medal.

"Now our goal is just to get somebody back on the podium."

Ron O'Brien, who coached Louganis when he was an Olympic champion, is thrilled that USA Diving is beginning to take advantage of Louganis' wealth of knowledge.

"I was kind of sorry that didn't happen right after he retired," O'Brien said. "He still has great name recognition and there's a lot of things he can do to promote the sport.

"I'm sure he can teach those kids a lot of tricks of the trade."

Louganis announced he was HIV positive soon after winning his last gold medals, and has spent much of the time since then as a dog trainer, author and actor.

This week he's found that adding USA Diving mentor to his responsibilities is a bonus in an already full life.

Initially, Louganis felt the young divers were intimidated by his legendary stature. But he said he was quickly able to dispel their nervousness around him.

"The kids have been great," Louganis said. "A lot of what we've been talking about has been totally undiving related.

"I broke down those perceived barriers of intimidation towards me. I said, 'You know what, I'm just a guy."'