In 1988 when he was twenty-eight, at the Seoul Olympics, attempting to repeat his unprecedented double golds from 1984 (springboard and tower), Greg Louganis hit his head on the board during his second to last dive. Freshly stitched up, on his final dive he earned a perfect score. Again, he won both gold medals. Widely hailed as one of the great sports comebacks of all time, it earned him ABC Wide World of Sports' Athlete of the Year. Three years earlier he had won the Sullivan Award as the nation's most outstanding amateur athlete, and he had been an American favorite ever since winning a silver medal at the Montreal Olympics when he was sixteen.
But what a difference one detail makes. Seven years later he published his autobiography, Breaking the Surface, cowritten with Eric Marcus, in which he revealed he is HIV positive. Suddenly he was no longer the hero of the comeback but the infected sneak whose bleeding might have put other divers at risk (not true, according to Anthony Fauci). The doctor who gave him stitches had not worn gloves. His book was #1 on the New York Times bestseller list for five weeks, and all of his corporate sponsors except Speedo dropped him. [He had come out eight months earlier, at Gay Games in New York.] Remarkable for its candor, his book showed readers that performing after hitting his head was nothing compared to the stress of being closeted, HIV+, and in an abusive relationship. Even his website last year said, "the highs that came with winning never compensated for the lows."