|Greg Louganis Dives into Philly|
posted by Matt O'Neill on Jul 5, 2012 10:00am | comments
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Matt O'Neill is a Philadelphia boy, born and raised. After earning dual degrees in Communications and Digital Media from Albright College, Matt became an avid blogger on various topics ranging from commercial insurance and middle market businesses, to personal relationship columns. You can view his personal blog at MyInnerMostThinking. Matt is currently the Director of Marketing for a risk management company out in King of Prussia, Pa. You can typically find Matt on the weekends reporting on gay friendly events spreading across the Philadelphia area.
Rounding out a week of promotions for free HIV testing here in Philly, Greg Louganis stopped by for a visit to my favorite local Philadelphia casino, Parx. All summer Parx Casino has been treating their visitors to celebrity meet and greets. You may remember few weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting three reality stars that can be found in my write up: Reality Stars Invade Parx Casino.
This past Friday was a special event however, not only because of my personal history of growing up as a swimmer my whole life, but being able to meet a man who was forced to share with the world, what was known during his time as “The Death Disease.” For anyone who doesn't know Greg's history changing story here's a brief overview:
Greg Louganis was an Olympic competing diver back in the 80s. Just months prior to his competition in the 1988 Olympics, Greg was diagnosed with HIV. Trying to keep it a secret throughout his competition against his fellow world class divers, Greg and his trainer chose to keep his recent diagnosis quiet. Tragedy hit while performing one dive when he hit his head on the board before falling into the water below. With a gash in his head, Greg bled into the pool that all other Olympians were going to be competing in. He then disclosed the information about his recent HIV diagnosis. Losing all his sponsorships except for Speedo, Greg became a focal point of the Olympics as officials did not know what to do (remember at this time, little was known about the disease). Speaking with Greg, he explained that at this point in his career, the largest struggle was just considering getting back on the boards. With the help and reinforcement of his coach, Greg decided to get back into the sport he loved. He later came out as a gay man as well.
Today, he is a strong rights advocate, out of the closet AND an avid dog trainer. He is also single *cough cough* (for anyone of you dog lovers out there). He has also (and more importantly) become an inspiration for millions who are afflicted with this disease. While it was life changing for Greg, he still got back to his feet and continued to do what he loved most. Get yourselves tested, and be safe. It not only helps our community as a whole, but allows you to live an whole and honest life. For anyone who may be infected, it's not the end of the world, the man I met on Friday, was outed to the WORLD, and is still continuing to live a long, healthy, productive, and successful life. His visit to Parx Casino could not have been any more spot on. In the words of Greg Louganis, believe in yourself.
A special thanks to Parx Casino for their continued LGBTQ support and a special thanks to Carrie Minelli for encouragement from our community to come out and support these stars. Be sure to visit their website to see all the upcoming celebrities this summer!