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Published: Saturday, 9/25/2004

Louganis dives in to canine training

BY VANESSA WINANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Greg Louganis' life has gone to the dogs - in the best possible way.

Once their moments of glory fade into black, the lives of many champion athletes often fade into bleak as they deal with money, relationship, and health issues they never had to address as celebrities.

But Mr. Louganis, a champion diver with five Olympic medals, never had the luxury of ducking such problems. At the height of his fame as an Olympic gold medalist, he was in an abusive relationship and hiding his positive HIV status from the world.

Sixteen years and a best-selling autobiography later, much has changed in the 44-year-old Malibu, Calif., man's life.

He feels well, has found love, acts in theater and film productions, speaks publicly about HIV and AIDS, and has a new passion in life: showing dogs in agility competitions and teaching others how to train their dogs.

This weekend, he is in northwest Ohio along with Nipper and Dobby, his two Jack Russell terriers. The three are doing dog training classes at the Fulton County fairgrounds through tomorrow. Mr. Louganis will speak this evening at the David's House Compassion's SRO14.

Mr. Louganis brought an intensity, a perfectionism to his

Mr. Louganis brought an intensity, a perfectionism to his diving career that seems largely missing from his life now. In an interview at the fairgrounds, he looked relaxed and often smiled as he spoke of his life since the 1995 publication of Breaking the Surface, his autobiography.

Unlike athletes who assume their bodies will hold out indefinitely, Mr. Louganis had an early wake-up call when he dislocated his shoulder in college. "I didn't know if I would ever dive again," he said. "At least I had theater I had something to go to."

"You've got to have plans," he added. "Diving's not going to last forever."

His interest in dogs started about then, when he received a Great Dane as a 21st birthday present. He gave her away because he was seldom home, but once he retired from diving, he got another Great Dane, then another. At one point, he wrote in his autobiography, he had five Great Danes and a corgi. He now owns five dogs.

Showing dogs satisfies his competitive instinct, but he's lost that all-or-nothing attitude that made him feel ashamed in the 1976 Olympics, when he missed winning the gold medal but brought home a silver.

"I don't measure success that way anymore," Mr. Louganis said. "In diving, I wasn't worthy of being loved if I didn't win."

But with his dogs, "as you're improving, it's a win."

Recently, he had the chance to expand his animal skills when he trained dogs for an independent film, Guarding Eddie. It's likely dogs will be a big part of his life for years to come. After all, his dogs have taught him what he considers the greatest lesson of his 44 years: "Don't take life so seriously."

Contact Vanessa Winans at:

vwinans@theblade.com

or 419-724-6168.



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