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Highlighting an Inspiring Olympic Moment: Ryan White and Greg Louganis

By Andrea Hughes, American Collection Curator
 
As far as Olympic gold medalists go, Greg Louganis is one of the most unforgettable. He competed in three Olympics, and many consider him the greatest diver in history. Greg and Ryan White became friends when Greg came to Indianapolis for a diving competition. After that, as a sign of their friendship, Greg gave Ryan some of his diving medals.  
 
When Greg competed in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, he won the springboard and platform events for the second time (he also won both in 1984.) But this almost didn’t happen. In the preliminaries for the 3m springboard event, Greg hit his head on the board and was injured with a concussion and had to receive stitches. At the time, people didn’t know that Greg and Ryan had something in common—both were HIV-positive. Greg said later that he wondered what Ryan would do in that situation. He decided that Ryan wouldn’t give up, and that helped Greg find the strength to continue. He went on to complete the best dive of the competition, and to win the gold medal the next day.
 

 
After Ryan died, Greg gave Jeanne White-Ginder, Ryan's mother, the gold medal that he won for that springboard event. Jeanne has now generously loaned the medal to The Children’s Museum. It will be on display in Ryan’s room in The Power of Children gallery in time for the beginning of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

In April 2015, Greg visited The Power of Children gallery with Jeanne to see his medal in Ryan's recreated room. Here's what he had to say during that visit...

"The thing I’ll always remember about Ryan is his courage, strength, and sense of humor...The way Ryan lived his life continues to give me the strength and courage to do things I might not otherwise feel comfortable doing.

In this exhibit I hope people can open their minds and open their hearts. Ryan was just a kid. He wanted to go to school, he had friends, wanted to go to dances, and do regular stuff.  He saw the value of education and he fought for that right. I want people to gain acceptance and share education about HIV and how you get it. I don’t want anyone to ever forget Ryan White. 

People have asked me how I could ever give away my medal. It’s in the record book. The medal is just a medal, and I knew it would be so appreciated. It gives the opportunity for people visiting the museum to see an Olympic gold medal, and I want to share that—because Ryan was my inspiration to get through it."

 
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Categories: Collections, Exhibits
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