By Ed Diokno
Even after winning four Olympic gold medals in diving, perhaps one of the most significant honors bestowed on Greg Louganis will be having his image on a cereal box.
Louganis, arguably the best-ever competitive diver in the history of the sport, will be featured on the boxes of Wheaties, the Breakfast of Champions, General Mills announced recently.
The belated honor comes decades after Louganis, a Samoan American, was competing in his prime winning gold medals in the Olympics. He became the only man to sweep the Olympic diving events in back-to-back games when he won gold medals in both springboard and platform diving in the ’84 and ’88 Olympics.
The General Mills breakfast cereal, known for featuring prominent athletes on its bright orange packaging, announced that four-time gold medalist Greg Louganis will join swimmer Janet Evans and hurdler Edwin Moses on three separate boxes starting next month.
Louganis, who came out as gay publicly in 1994 and revealed he was HIV-positive a year later, has said that homophobia likely blocked him from being featured on a Wheaties box after the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympics, the New York Times reports.
“This means so much more than it would have back then,” he told the newspaper. “Getting it now means people will see me as a whole person — a flawed person who is gay, H.I.V.-positive, with all the other things I’ve been through.”
General Mills spokesman Mike Siemienas told NPR he couldn’t provide an answer as to why Louganis wasn’t on the box previously because no one who was involved in those decisions still worked at the company. Siemienas said a committee is responsible for determining which athletes are on the boxes.
Wheaties unveiled the “legends” cereal boxes after the documentary detailing Louganis’ athletic career and experiences as a gay man sparked a petition on Change.org created by Julie Sondgerath who had never met Louganis.
“Back in ’95, I wasn’t expected to live very long because we thought of HIV-AIDS as a death sentence, so to be here today, now 56, the box means so much more to me than it would have then because I feel like I’m being embraced as a whole person, not just for my athletic achievements.”The cereal boxes will be in stores from May, Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month, through at least the summer.
(Ed Diokno writes a blog :Views From The Edge: news and analysis from an Asian American perspective.)
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