Greg Louganis heads to the Pacific Ocean on Sept. 25 for a morning swim; however, the man we've seen for years wearing nothing but a Speedo is nervous, very nervous.
"I'm not really a swimmer, so …," he said, laughing.
Louganis is, instead, a five-time Olympic gold medal diver, "and divers dogpaddle to the side of the pool," he added with a laugh.
Nonetheless, Louganis will join hundreds of others in the annual 1.7-mile swim in support of Equality California, which raises critical awareness and funds for LGBT rights in California.
Louganis did an open-water swim in late August as part of his training, and though it spanned less than half of the 1.7-mile course, "I felt pretty good; I didn't do too badly; and that [ distance ] was a feat for a non-swimmer."
Louganis, now 50 and a Malibu, Calif., resident, was among several high-profile athletes who came out earlier this year in support of the Equality California swim. The others, though, were Lenny Krayzelburg, Diana Macmanus and Gary Hall Jr.,all elite, award-winning swimmers.
"I was just supposed to be an honorary host" at a promotional event held earlier this year for the swim, Louganis said. "But, as [ the event was going on, ] and we were asking for donations, someone raised their hand and said that they would sponsor five swimmers. Two hands went up immediately [ from swimmers who agreed to participate ] . But then there was a lull, so I threw my hand up, [ agreeing to participate ] .
"Then I realized it was 1.7 miles and I thought, 'What did I just agree to do?!'"
Yes, 1.7 is quite the distance for the world-renowned diver.
"That's a long [ distance ] ," he said.
Louganis admits he is "excited and nervous," and confident, too.
"Swimming in an ocean is quite different from swimming in a pool. You have the tide, the surf and even the wildlife to deal with," he said. "You have to know that I have a good sense of humor to put myself into something like this. I'm just doing it to have fun and help raise awareness."
Equality California is on the front lines, winning LGBT rights in the legislature and in the court of public opinion. EQCA advocates for the passage of LGBT protections in Sacramento and works with key coalition partners and thousands of volunteers to build public support for marriage for same-sex couples.
"Equality California does such important work, lobbying for equal rights, civil rights, especially for the LGBT community," said Louganis, who has been with his partner, Daniel, for approximately three years.
"We're not asking for special rights; we're just asking for equal rights."
Louganis is still active in the sport he starred in. In fact, when we spoke, he was in Tucson, Ariz., for the annual 2010 Junior World Diving Championshipsto be certified as a diving judge.
"It's cool, there are a bunch of us old Olympians from the 1980s who are getting certified," he said.
But certified in the sport he excelled at?
"They want to standardize the judging," he said. "Diving is a sport that evolves, and right now we're in that acrobatic phase."
Louganis said he doesn't miss the competition, just the training.
And the training he's involved with more often these days involves his dogs. Louganis competes with his Jack Russell terriers in agility training, a sport requiring both human and canine fitness.
His last competition was in March.
"We've pulled back from a lot of the dog agility [ training ] , but we may be getting back in the swing of it," he said.
Louganis confirmed that he also has thrown his hat in the pool, so to speak, for the president/CEO position at USA Diving. The current president/CEO is resigning in October, so USA Diving is now looking for a replacement.
"I would love the challenge," he said. "I would be in there fighting tooth and nail for the athletes and coaches. The state of diving globally is, it's the entire world chasing China."
Also on Louganis' resume these days are acting roles. Plus, he's been pitching a reality-TV show.