Memorable Olympic Moments: Greg Louganis, Seoul 1988

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

The terrifying diving accident of Seoul's 1988 games

by Gerry Brown
Greg Louganis

Greg Louganis smacks his head on the diving board during the 1988 Seoul games. (Source: AP)

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It was the most head-smacking incident since the V8 guy made his famous realization.

The accident occurred on September 19, 1988, on the ninth of Greg Louganis's eleven preliminary dives in the three-meter springboard competition during the Seoul games. Louganis, the world's best diver, cracked his head on the diving board and hit the water with a big splat. The defending Olympic champion was attempting a reverse 2½-somersault pike but did not get enough separation from the board.

"I didn't realize I was that closeto the board," Louganis would say later. "When I hit it, it was kind of a shock. But I think my pride was hurt more than anything else."

Louganis returned to finish his qualifying dives 35 minutes after suffering a cut that required temporary sutures. Following the preliminary round, Louganis went to a hospital and got five stitches. Days later he won yet another gold medal and become the first diver in history to successfully defend his Olympic springboard title. The incident took on added concern years later in 1995 when the four-time gold medallist revealed to Barbara Walters and the world that he had AIDS, and had been HIV-positive during the 1988 Games.

"I was in a total panic that I might cause someone else harm," he wrote in his 1995 autobiography, Breaking the Surface. "I wanted to warn Dr. Puffer (who treated his head injury in 1988 without wearing gloves) but I was paralyzed. Everything was all so mixed up at that point: the HIV, the shock and embarrassment of hitting my head and an awful feeling that it was all over."

Dr. Puffer was told about Louganis's condition in 1994 and tested negative for HIV.

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