Olympic Champion Greg Louganis Gets His Wheaties Box : The Two-Way The openly gay gold-medal winner said 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."

Better Late Than Never: Olympic Champion Greg Louganis Gets His Wheaties Box

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Greg Louganis had come to accept that despite being a four-time Olympic gold medalist, there was one badge of honor he wouldn't see.


GREG LOUGANIS: Yeah, I never got a Wheaties box (laughter). Their response was that I didn't fit their wholesome demographics or whatever, basically, you know, being gay.

SHAPIRO: That's the champion diver speaking in a recent HBO documentary called "Back On Board." Now it has happened. Today the Wheaties box with his photo was unveiled, and we're going to ask Greg Louganis what he thinks about that. Welcome to the show.

LOUGANIS: Thank you. It's great to be here.

SHAPIRO: First just describe the picture of you on the box. Do you remember when this photo was taken?

LOUGANIS: Yes, I do remember. It was at Mission Viejo, and I think we were preparing for the 84 Olympic games. I had a photographer friend who was photographing that day. So, oh, my God, my legs are big.


SHAPIRO: They're not that big anymore?

LOUGANIS: They're not quite that big anymore.

SHAPIRO: Describe the image. You're sort of bent forward in a classic...


SHAPIRO: ...Diver pose.

LOUGANIS: Right. It's an inward dive pike. It's a little black-and-white photo. It looks so retro and so cool.

SHAPIRO: You can see your - sort of whatever those muscles are called along your ribs. It's a really active shot. It is not like a studio portrait.

LOUGANIS: No, it's not a studio portrait. It's definitely action.

SHAPIRO: You've won so many awards, gold medals at the Olympics. Why does being on a box of cereal matter?

LOUGANIS: Well, you know what? It - I really didn't follow it. You know, it really started with "Breaking The Surface" with Eric Marcus in 1995. People were coming to me with these Wheaties boxes with my picture on it and asking me to sign it. And it's like, well, what's this all about?

SHAPIRO: You mean they had, like, pasted your picture onto a Wheaties box.

LOUGANIS: Yeah, yeah.

SHAPIRO: I should also say "Breaking The Surface" is this book that you co-wrote - it came out in the mid-90s - that is your life story.

LOUGANIS: Correct. That's when I came out about my HIV status and talked openly about being a gay man. But back in '95, you know, I wasn't expected to live very long because we thought of HIV-AIDS as a death sentence. So you know, to be here today, you know, now 56, the box means so much more to me than it would've then because I feel like I'm being embraced as a whole person, not just for my athletic achievements.

SHAPIRO: So I got to tell you. Before this conversation, I texted Tom Daley, the olympic diver from...

LOUGANIS: I love Tom Daley.

SHAPIRO: And he just wrote back to me, and he says, tell him that I would've always wanted someone like him as a role model on the front of a cereal box.


SHAPIRO: He's a great role model and forever will be the greatest diver to walk this Earth.

LOUGANIS: Oh, my God.

SHAPIRO: And you know, Tom Daley is somebody who came out around the age of 20...


SHAPIRO: ...And now has this Olympic career much like yours.


SHAPIRO: And he's able to be open in a way that you were not able to be open.

LOUGANIS: Exactly. It was a different time back in the '80s. I was afraid it was going to be all about, oh, the gay diver or the gay athlete, you know, which it may have been.

SHAPIRO: You had this level of fame with your Olympic wins, and now, all these years later, you're going to be introduced to a new generation that might not be as familiar with you through the Wheaties cereal box.


SHAPIRO: What do you want this new generation to know about you? What do you hope you represent to them?

LOUGANIS: In a word, hope because when I was diagnosed back in 1988, I was 28. Six months prior to the Olympic games, I didn't expect to see the age of 30. And here I am today at 56 and really living and thriving - that HIV isn't a death sentence.

Also the important factor, too, is that I share my experience with my HIV meds. It hasn't been easy. I wouldn't wish my drug regimen on anyone, so prevention, prevention, prevention, education, education, education. You know, those are the kinds of things that I try to convey to the younger generation that - you know, that's coming up.

SHAPIRO: Well, Greg Louganis, it is an honor to talk to you, and congratulations on finally getting your photo on that box of Wheaties.

LOUGANIS: Thank you so much.

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