William Estep

My journey to retire and sail. Writing, reading, technology, programming, photography, coffee, equality, sailing, and the oxford comma.

"Breaking the Surface" by Greg Louganis

Category: ClubReading
Tags: booksreview

Review written for ClubReading.com by Bill in 2001

I love to read. Every once in a while, a book comes along that reminds me so thoroughly why I love to read. This is just such a book.

I've been following the rescue attempts of the Russian Submarine, Kursk. At the time I'm writing this, the British rescue efforts are rushing to the scene. There is still a faint hope that the crew will be saved.

This story has struck a particular chord in me. I spent more than a dozen years serving in the Navy, riding on nuclear powered submarines. We knew the risks. We coldly practiced drill scenarios for flooding, fires, steam line ruptures, all the while, living in one of the most hostile environments on earth...beneath the surface of the earth's oceans. And now, with practiced logic and cold calm, I watch on the news as this horrible catastrophe plays out.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the crew and their families and all those desperately trying to rescue these men.

How precious life is! Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could spend every moment of every day conscious of just how spectacular that moment is? But we can't. For most of us, we are caught up on the day to day of living. We have jobs and bills, new tires to buy, dishes to do, cat sick to clean up...sometimes the spectacle of life is more than we can stand.

Thank God for heroes. People we can look up to and remember greatness is just around the corner. Greg Louganis has been a hero of mine for a long time. I've always enjoyed watching the Olympics. The amazing athletes that can run like a cheetah, or jump in the air higher than most of us can reach. To steal a line from the master, "What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable!"

In Breaking the Surface, Greg Louganis brings to light the depth of character of such a hero. Here is a man who from a very early age was on top of the world. An Olympic Champion, the world leader in 10M platform and 3M springboard diving. What the world saw was a successful, good looking young man smiling from the gold medal platform...seemingly not a care in the world.

Greg tells us a story of a boy who from a very early age was ridiculed, called names, insecure and depressed to the point of suicide. The list of challenges that the author shares with us is incredible.

The author shares with us key pieces of his life. As we read, Greg tells the story of growing up into an Olympic athlete. He shares with us his dealings with hatred and bigotry as a gay man. Greg talks openly about an abusive relationship that cost him a great deal both emotionally and financially.

The author talks about his life after becoming HIV positive. Greg shares his deepest fears with us. How he dealt with being sick, how he dealt with the death of family and friends.

This amazing man shares with us how he is dealing with the day to day reminders of our mortality. He discusses the AZT alarm going off every 4 hours and how every cough or cold can lead him to wonder if this is the end. And with these constant challenges Greg wins another two gold medals in the 1988 Olympics.

My thoughts of Greg Louganis as a hero have changed. Before, I saw him as a great athlete accomplishing amazing feats of skill. Now, after reading his autobiography, I see him as a great man. A man of courage and amazing internal strength and beauty. I have gained strength and wisdom from his sharing. I am a better person for having read this book.

Thank you Greg Louganis.

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© William Estep