Four-time Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis will grace the cover of a Wheaties cereal box, his legs tucked into a dramatic inward pike as part of the Wheaties Legends series, the company announced Monday.
Louganis, 56, who is well-known for his world-class diving skills, was given the arguably overdue honor of appearing on the box after a fan watched the recent Emmy-nominated HBO documentary Back on Board and became inspired to start an online petition.
"Greg was diving's superstar and Swimming World named him 'The Greatest Diver Ever,'" wrote Julie Sondgerath in her Change.org petition. "At the time, General Mills explained Louganis did not meet their 'wholesome demographics' to grace the cover of the famed coveted Wheaties box. Greg Louganis deserves (still) to be on the cover of the Wheaties box. And with marriage equality passing in June of 2015, what a great way to pay it forward to Greg and all of his accomplishments."
In addition to being a diving legend, Louganis was among the first Olympians to come out as gay and HIV-positive. He has been outspoken about his belief that "homophobia was most likely the reason that Wheaties did not put him on its box after the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympics," according to The New York Times.
Louganis came out during the Gay Games of 1994, and a year later in his biography, Breaking the Surface, announced that he had tested positive for HIV before the 1988 summer games. During those games, he famously cut his head on the diving board, but still won two gold medals.
Speaking to General Mills about the honor, Louganis said he was moved by the support of his fans who signed the petition to put him on the box. Sondgerath was able to collect more than 41,000 signatures for her cause, and went to General Mills' headquarters in Minneapolis to hand-deliver them to the company.
General Mills told The New York Times that, while it was aware of the petition and campaign to feature Louganis on the box, decisions of that nature were "not about who gets the most votes or who gets petitions."
"We look at a wide array of what they accomplished on the field of play and what they do in their communities," Mike Siemienas, manager of brand media relations at General Mills, told the Times.
Louganis told General Mills that he would be excited to see the box in stores. "I think it's really incredible to see how far we've come as far as human rights and acknowledging love, respect," he said in an interview with the company. "I mean, I am legally married now to my husband and we've been married for two years. ... I never thought I'd see this day, really, we've come so far and to be able to celebrate that I think is really something very special."
Though the honor is somewhat belated, Louganis told The New York Times that covering the iconic cereal box now means that fans get to see him as who he is. "This means so much more than it would have back then," he said. "Getting it now means people will see me as a whole person -- a flawed person who is gay, HIV-positive, with all the other things I've been through."
Listen to Louganis speak with General Mills about the honor, and watch the trailer for Back on Board below.