Greg Louganis
Greg Louganis

Greg Louganis had won silver in Montreal and two gold medals for diving in Los Angeles in 1984. In 1988 at the Seoul Olympic Games, Louganis was favored to win gold again in both the 3 meter springboard and the 10-meter platform events.

But that changed suddenly when Louganis hit his head in the 3-meter preliminaries, and fell into the water with blood seeping from his head. As he explained in a recent episode of Hang Up and Listen (the Slate sports podcast), “in that split second, I was the underdog.” (Listen from the 36-minute mark for the Louganis interview.)

Louganis went on to win gold in both the 3-meter and 10-meter competitions, ending the Olympic career of who some say is the greatest diver of all time. But the competition in 1988 was the toughest he faced with the Chinese coming on strong and challenging Louganis for diving supremacy. And more personally, it was only six months before when Louganis learned he was HIV positive. If the Korean authorities had known that, it is possible they would not have let him into the country to compete in the Olympics.

As the Slate interviewers asked in disbelief, after getting a concussion in the prelims, leaving blood in the water hiding the fact that he is HIV positive, the Chinese breathing down his neck as he battles to stay in medal contention….how did he focus.

Louganis replied with a laugh, answering as it wasn’t that big a deal to do so.

“That was my upbringing. I’ve been performing (for so long). I started dance and acrobatics when I was 3. I was taught, “Hey, the show must go on.” As soon as that music starts, there is no looking back. if you lose your place, you gotta catch up. You don’t get second chances. It was easy for me to compartmentalize my life because I had done so for so many years. We get good at what we practice. That is something I practiced a lot.”

Louganis is not alone. Almost all athletes at that level can narrow their focus on only the elements they know will contribute to their success. It amazes me

money1In 1964, there were rumors of athletes getting cash for wearing a certain company’s shoes. And the athletes from the US would also express disbelief at the financial support the athletes from the USSR received. But on the whole, only amateurs were allowed at the Olympic Games.

At the IAAF World Championships, now taking place in Beijing, tens of thousands of dollars are at stake. According to this article from the blog, Around the Rings, gold medalists take home $60,000, while those for silver and bronze receive payments of $30,000 and $20,000 respectively. An athlete who finishes as low as eighth picks up $4,000 for his or her efforts.

There are also financial rewards for team competitors.

Nick SymmondsSeems like a decent chunk of change to run around on a track. But only a handful of world-class athletes make the big bucks. Nick Symmonds won’t even be in Beijing as he is protesting the demands of the USA Track and Field organization that requires him, he feels to put

An ad for the Prince Gloria, from the magazine
An ad for the Prince Gloria, from the magazine “Olympic Tokyo Taikai Tokushuu No. 2_Tokyo Shimbun”

My uncle in Tochigi told me that he had a car and its name was Gloria. I had just arrived in Tokyo and my Japanese wasn’t very good, so I couldn’t tell if he actually named his car. As it turned out, he was the proud owner of a Nissan Gloria.

This full-page ad was selling the Gloria, although it was manufactured at the time by a company called Prince Automobile Manufacturers. In 1959, this company presented to Crown Prince Akihito a Prince Gloria in commemoration of his recent wedding to Princess Michiko. This company would go onto become the official vehicle supplier to the Imperial Household Agency.

The car in the ad was the Grand Gloria S44P, which was launched in May, 1964, prior to the Tokyo Olympics. In addition to including electric power windows, it had a large enough engine (2.5 liters) to make the Grand Gloria the first vehicle manufactured in Japan to not be classified as a compact sedan.

The ad states that this car transported athletes, officials and members of the press during the torch relay leading to the opening of the Tokyo Olympics.

In 1966, Prince merged with Nissan Motors, adding Prince’s Skyline and Gloria brands to their range of vehicles.