Olympian Greg Louganis could be Rose Parade’s first gay Grand Marshal

PASADENA – Olympic diver Greg Louganis appears to have made history again.

Louganis – considered the greatest male Olympic diver of all time – could be the first openly gay person selected as a Grand Marshal in the 128-year history of the Rose Parade.

Louganis, 56, and fellow Olympic champions Janet Evans, 45, and Allyson Felix, 31, were announced as the 2017 Tournament of Roses Grand Marshals during a press conference last month at the Tournament House in Pasadena. They will ride along Colorado Boulevard in the Rose Parade on Jan. 2.

A review of past Grand Marshals would indicate that Louganis is the first openly LGBTQ Grand Marshal. Tournament of Roses spokeswoman Candy Carlson said via email that  “…our Grand Marshals are a living testament to the diversity of our great nation, and that’s something we’re proud to celebrate. Asking someone’s sexual orientation is not part of the conversation or the selection process.”

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Rose Parade Grand Marshals

During the press conference, Tournament of Roses President Brad Ratliff said the Grand Marshals inspire people to succeed.

“We each have those individuals that have made an impact on our lives,” Ratliff said.  “This year’s theme, ‘Echoes of Success,’ is a salute to those individuals.  The impact that our three Grand Marshals have had on so many, both through their achievements and voices, truly is representative of our theme.

“The values exhibited by our Olympians and the richness in their backgrounds has given so many others the support, encouragement and drive to succeed, and we want to celebrate all that they have given,” he said.

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Evans is a five-time Olympic medalist who has broken seven world records and is considered the greatest female distance swimmer in history.

Felix is the most decorated female track and field Olympian in history.  She won three gold medals at the London 2012 Olympic Games and two more gold medals at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Louganis is considered the greatest male Olympic diver of all time. He competed in the 1976 games in Montreal, the 1984 games in Los Angeles and the 1988 games in Seoul and won five medals, including four gold.

Louganis is the first man to sweep both diving categories in consecutive Olympics.

Lougnais, LGBTQ equality

Louganis, who came out as gay in 1995, is an activist for LGBTQ rights and HIV awareness. Louganis found out he he was HIV positive before competing in the 1988 Olympics.

While attempting a dive during those games, he hit his head on the springboard, but still won gold.

Louganis married his husband, Johnny Challiot, in 2013.

Aaron Saenz, president of the San Gabriel Valley LGBTQ Center, said Louganis being selected a Grand Marshal helps increase visibility of LGBTQ individuals.

“It’s really forward thinking,” Saenz told the Pasadena Star News. “It’s adding to the conversation that a respected Olympian, who also happens to be gay and living with HIV, can receive such a great honor and is part of the community at large.”

Greg Louganis Rose Parade

Greg Louganis, left, Janet Evans, center, and Allyson Felix are the Tournament of Roses Grand Marshals for the 2017 Rose Parade. Photo: Tournament of Roses.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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