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September 1, 2014

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Greg Louganis: From the Olympics to canine competitions

Gold medallist in diving talks Phelp, training dogs

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Sam Morris

Six-time world champion and four-time Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis and his dog Nipper competed in an agility trial last month in Henderson.

Beyond the Sun

Four-time Olympian Greg Louganis might be best remembered for bouncing back from a concussion at the 1988 Seoul games and winning gold in his springboard diving event. These days Louganis can be spotted competing in a far different venue — dog agility. Dogs must complete a series of obstacles, jumps, ramps and tunnels within the allotted time. Louganis was in Henderson last month for a competition sponsored by the Gamblers Agility Club of Greater Las Vegas. Louganis, 49, lives in Santa Monica, where he’s focusing on his acting career.

How do you go from Olympic diving to dog agility?

I was working on obedience in a local park with Nipper and I saw an agility class. It looked like so much fun, so I thought we would try it. She was awesome — she just took off. Nipper’s going to be 12 in May, and I’m still running her in agility.

When you started showing your dogs, did people treat you differently because of your celebrity status?

I heard more comments when I started out showing my Great Danes in conformation. People would say, “You’re not going in the ring with your dog, are you?” There was shock that I didn’t hire a professional handler. I didn’t care about championships; it was just my time with my dog.

Does your success in dog agility bring back the competitive spirit from your diving days?

I’m competitive, but first and foremost it’s about your relationship with your dog. What’s fun about agility is that even if you don’t win, you can still earn points and work toward a championship title. There’s a lot of camaraderie out there. Everyone’s so supportive.

Do you think Michael Phelps is being judged too harshly for smoking pot at a party?

He’s a kid, 23 years old. Everyone makes mistakes. The thing that’s most unnerving is that he did have a DUI before. Hopefully he goes through some self-examination of what his priorities are.

Has Phelps lost his standing as a role model?

He took responsibility, he didn’t deny it, and that says a lot. I made my mistakes, but they were private. Now with the Internet, you really have to watch yourself.

Was there less scrutiny of Olympians when you were diving?

Well, no one was running around with cameras on their phones.

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