“Back on Board: Greg Louganis,” a documentary that the four-time Olympic gold medal-winning diver describes as “a raw look at my life,” premieres at 10 p.m. tonight on HBO.
Louganis openly discusses what he called his “struggles with life in general — not just being gay, living with HIV, trying to find acceptance in a solitary sport and the world around me, but also life as a recovering alcoholic, the threat of losing my home due to some bad business decisions, the possibility of filing bankruptcy.”
The documentary was sparked by producer Will Sweeney reading a 2011 New York Times story about Louganis returning to diving as a mentor after being away from the sport for more than 20 years after winning gold medals in springboard and platform events in the 1988 Summer Olympics, according to Cheryl Furjanic, who directed the documentary and was among its writers and producers. She spoke last week during HBO’s portion of the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour in Beverly Hills.
Furjanic said Sweeney contacted her because of a documentary she made on synchronized swimming.
One selling point to Louganis was an “informal unscientific poll” she conducted that found that people “under 30 didn’t really know who he was because they hadn’t heard is name in their lifetime,” Furjanic said.
Furjanic said she and her crew spent three years filming the documentary, which premiered last June at the American Film Institute Documentary Festival and then was shown at other film festivals last year.
“Greg’s story is connected to so many important moments in American history, including the Olympics, the AIDS epidemic, the gay rights movement and even the recent home-foreclosure crisis,” Sweeney said.
“Greg’s return to diving to mentor the Olympic team gave us a natural way to tell his unique story and explore his enduring legacy.”
Louganis said he was diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, six months before the 1988 Summer Olympics.
“I knew those were my last competitive dives because we still viewed HIV/AIDS as a death sentence,” the 55-year-old Louganis said last week. “I never thought I’d see 30. And then 30 goes by. And then 40 goes by.”
Louganis, who also trains dogs for agility competitions, will be a diving analyst at the 2016 Olympics, and appear in the plays “The Kid From Kokomo,” in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and “Spring at the Willowbrook Inn,” in Orlando, Florida, later this year.
“I don’t plan too far ahead because my husband (Johnny Chaillot, a paralegal) is always encouraging me to do what’s in front of me to the best of my ability,” Louganis said. “That’s how I make it through my day.”