American slopestyle skier Gus Kenworthy wanted to be the role model he never had while growing up, and that’s why he made the decision to come out before the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Four years ago, after winning a silver medal in Sochi, Kenworthy stood on the podium and accepted his medal with pride and smile on his face, but deep down, he was holding in a secret that only one other person knew — he was gay.Gus Kenworthy/Instagram
He told NBC that he had planned on coming out to the world following his final run of the Sochi Olympics by kissing his boyfriend at the bottom of the slope, but because not even his parents knew he was gay, he wasn’t ready to make such a grand gesture.
Instead, the now-26-year-old waited and eventually came out on the cover of ESPN The Magazine. He said:
“I just got to a point in my life where it was becoming more painful to kind of hold on to the charade then it was scary to let go. […] Coming out for me is just a huge milestone in my life, it’s something that I’m actually really proud of. […] Growing up, I think if I had had a gay role model that I was proud of it would have helped me so much and saved me so much heartache.”
Kenworthy went on to say that he believes that he and fellow openly gay athlete Adam Rippon are changing the way people think about the LGBT community.
“It’s so easy for people to put gay people and LGBTQ people into a box when it fits into stereotypes, but when they have people that don’t necessarily fit the norm, it forces them to rethink everything that they think about gay people and I think that just having more widespread representation is the only way that we’re ever gonna really have widespread acceptance. So, I hope that having myself and Adam competing in the winter Olympics and just having two out guys competing with the best in the world, who happen to be straight, shows that being gay is not a disadvantage in anything, in sport or anything else. It just shows that it really doesn’t make a difference and hopefully, it makes people rethink what they think gay is.”
Just before competing in the slopestyle ski event at the 2018 Olympics, Kenworthy shared a kiss with his boyfriend that was broadcasted on national television — and people loved it:
— Slate (@Slate) February 18, 2018
— Dustin Lance Black (@DLanceBlack) February 18, 2018
— amanda camiolo (@amandachristine) February 18, 2018
— Anastasia (@Stasia_M) February 18, 2018
Gus Kenworthy’s family and boyfriend holding up rainbow flags to cheer him on is the Olympics content we need right now. ❤️?????
— Raymond Braun (@raymondbraun) February 18, 2018
Kenworthy’s boyfriend, Matt Wilkas, discussed the “historic” kiss with Time:
“It’s unusual, right? It’s good that it’s televised because it normalizes it more. I would imagine it would be a huge moment for a young gay kid to see an awesome athlete so open and proud of himself and not caring what anyone thinks of his sexuality.”
However, while Kenworthy wants to be that role model, Wilkas admitted that it’s put immense pressure on the young athlete.Gus Kenworthy/Instagram
“He’s definitely been stressing out a lot. It’s hard. He wants to be the voice, one of the heroes for his community alongside Adam [Rippon]. But I think it just adds a lot of pressure to the moment. There are people on both sides. The gay community looks up to him, then the people who hate him for being who he is and can’t wait to see him fail. There’s a sense of wanting to prove them wrong.”
Unfortunately, after breaking his thumb the day before the competition, Kenworthy was unable to get that second Olympic medal like he had hoped.
The skier took to Twitter the day following his performance.
Thank you all for the support. I love you. pic.twitter.com/HUky5MSh6W
— Gus Kenworthy (@guskenworthy) February 19, 2018
This photo sums up yesterday for me. I failed to land my run in the final and didn’t end up on the podium but, for me, the Olympics aren’t solely about the medals. Being here now, out and proud and living my life authentically, I’m walking away more fulfilled without a medal than I did at the last Games with one. Of course I would’ve loved to have landed my run and been on the podium but it just wasn’t my day. After years of preparation, countless hours of training and numerous injuries it’s all over in a flash. At every contest there are three winners and a field of non-winners. This is the Olympics though and nobody here loses. Everybody gave it their best effort, fought hard, endured and made their country, their family, their friends and their fans proud. I’m holding my head high knowing that I gave it my all. I’m proud of what I did here and all those I was representing in the process and I’m very happy for @oysteinbraten, @nickgaper and @abmskier for walking away with medals. I may have worked tirelessly to get here but so did they and I’m proud of them for putting it down when it counts.
In the end, Kenworthy finished 12th overall, while teammate Nick Goepper took home the silver for Team USA.