INDIANAPOLIS, AUG. 9 -- Greg Louganis has a house in Los Angeles, a film career, enviable good looks.
And if he wore all his diving medals at once, he would drown.
Yet here he is again, at the Pan American Games, seeking yet another gold trifle to hang around his neck.
At 27, he remains the most artistic, dancerlike diver in the world, although he doesn't really dive so much as he performs. And when he goes out over the water, he takes your heart with him.
But the sprinkle of gray in Louganis' hair, imperceptible unless you stand close, has many speculating how much longer he will continue to dive. He has collected five world championships, two Olympic golds and, in the men's three-meter springboard beginning at 8 p.m. Monday, he probably will earn yet another Pan Am medal, of which he already has four. Surely that's enough.
"Why stay in it? Because I have the luxury of having fun at it," he said. "I don't have to go to the pool, but there's still no place I'd rather be."
However, there was a time earlier this year when Louganis himself was wondering. Particularly when he took just second place in all three events at the U.S. Indoor Nationals in April. It was the first time in 10 years he had failed to win at least one U.S. title, and such a rare and shocking defeat made bigger headlines than he would have gotten had he won as usual.
At the time, Louganis was uncertain of both his talent and of his future in diving; many considered him perhaps on the evening side of his career, and he was one of them. The losses were so alarming because they represented the only flutter in an otherwise perfectly consistent career.
"It forced me to deal with some questions I'd been asking myself all year," Louganis said. "Like if I was getting too old. All the reporters were asking me that. And I was saying, well, am I? Can I hold on? Am I over the hill at 27?"
But Louganis' questions were answered almost immediately, at the FINA World Cup championships, one of the premier international competitions, when he once again won a gold medal on the springboard. The turning point was a long discussion with coach Ron O'Brien, who directs the Pan Am team as well as Louganis' Mission Bay Club in Boca Raton, Fla. Essentially, O'Brien assured him that any loss of ability was only in his mind.
"I said, 'What's going on?' " O'Brien related. "I could tell from the way he was diving and his frame of mind that he wasn't real confident. He said he was really doubting himself, and I reassured him that it had nothing to do with his skills. He was afraid he was slipping."
A heartened Louganis won the springboard with one of his classic dives, a reverse 3 1/2 somersault that has a 3.5 degree of difficulty. He went on to win two of three events at the recent outdoor nationals.
The result is that Louganis and O'Brien contend that if anything, he may be getting even better as he grows older.
His unparalleled grace is increasingly coupled with a technical excellence and a mental toughness that was at one time difficult for someone who considered himelf a bit of an artiste. His list of dives is considered perhaps the toughest in the world, and he is still working on their finer points.
"I've always thought of myself more as performer than competitor," he said. "But I've learned to compete, and it took me many years."
But, mainly, Louganis is clearly enjoying it more than ever. Prior to the Olympics, Louganis was single-minded on the subject of a gold medal. Now that he has a long list of achievements, he is much more secure, with the sure knowledge of five world championships, a record-breaking 41 U.S. titles, and a world record for the highest point total ever on one dive, 99.
"It's more fun now than in the past," he said. "Before I was so narrow-minded. Then it was just the gold medal. Now I've achieved a lot, and if I don't ever win another championship, it's no problem."
There are of course, certain signs of age. For the first time, he is watching his diet, and has begun working with weights. He probably spends less time at the pool than he did before, but, O'Brien said, "He knows all the dives. He doesn't need that tedious time."
But what ultimately will cause him to abandon diving are his various and increasing other interests. Having bought a house, he finds he doesn't get to spend nearly enough time there and says he is homesick.
Also, there is his acting career. He majored in drama at Cal-Irvine, has studied it for nine years, and has made a film. Called "Dirty Laundry," it was released in Europe and on video cassette. He has a cameo as a womanizing beach bum. "A pretty radical dude," he said. In addition, Louganis came to Indianapolis early for the Pan Am Games so he could practice with a local dance company, with which he will make his professional stage debut in October, performing two pieces.
The Pan Ams are the last competition of the year for him. After this he begins his usual circuit of speeches and appearances.
"I have to go earn my living to pay for my diving habit," he said.