Friday, August 03, 2012
Mind over matter is Louganis mantra
By Paul Majendie
LONDON (Reuters) - For four-times Olympic gold medallist Greg Louganis, diving is all about "keeping it together upstairs".
Louganis, who has acted as mentor to the U.S. Diving team, says you have to win the mind games at the Olympics, especially in a sport dominated by Chinese divers.
The silver-haired Californian told Reuters in an interview at the London aquatics centre: "When you walk into a venue like this, you feel the energy.
"There is something there, it is palpable. If you interpret it as pressure, then you are more apt to implode. If you interpret it as inspiration, then it can fuel you to be more than you ever dreamed you could be."
Louganis certainly knows all about pressure. He is perhaps best known for hitting his head on the springboard at the 1988 Seoul Olympics in a preliminary round. He recovered and went on to land the gold.
Mind over matter - that was vital. "Once you reach this level, it's who keeps it together upstairs," he said.
Louganis is full of admiration for the way China plotted world domination in diving.
"They were very smart. What they did was study the top divers in the world, not just what they did in the pool as far as training techniques were concerned but their entire life.
"I started doing acrobatics and dancing when I was a year and a half. I was performing on stage when I was three. I went into gymnastics at seven. I went into diving when I was eight. All of those things help. The Chinese made a model of that."
The Chinese now dominate as much as Louganis did in the 1980s when he won springboard and platform gold in Los Angeles in 1984 and in Seoul four years later.
He first exploded on to the scene at Montreal in 1976 at the age of 16, when he won silver. If the United States had not boycotted Moscow in 1980, he could have had even more golds.
Determination, and not being concerned about where the money comes from, are, he says another reason for China's success.
"They come from a culture which is very, very disciplined. It's a very different society. It is a communist society. The only thing they have to worry about is training," he said.
Louganis said he worked part-time in three jobs when he was training. "This is how I would keep a roof over my head and food in my refrigerator."
He can relate to the home-crowd pressures facing Britain's diving poster boy Tom Daley, who narrowly missed out on a medal with Pete Waterfield in the synchronised platform here.
"I competed in L.A. in my own backyard. There are certain pressures that go with that."
His advice to Daley? "I hope he looks at the synchro as more of a warm-up for his individual event."
(Editing by Clare Fallon)