Pyeongchang 2018

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Rippon up the rules: Adam and Gus Kenworthy talk Beijing 2020, internet trolls, and being America’s sweetheart

Beijing 2022 at 32?

Adam Rippon and Gus Kenworthy made history by becoming the first openly gay men to represent the United States at the Winter Games in PyeongChang but will we see them at Beijing 2022?

At 28-years-old, Rippon was the oldest Olympic U.S. rookie figure skater since 1936. He would be 32 at Beijing 2022.

Kenworthy is still only 26-years old and may feel like he has some unfinished business after a disheartening Winter Olympics where he was plagued by injury and finished 12th, battling through the pain.

Adam?

“Never say never – but never,” said Rippon in a joint interview with Out Magazine.

 

“I left the Olympics feeling like a hero and a champion. It’s all I ever wanted from my sport…This was my third Olympics trials. It wasn’t my first rodeo, and I feel so lucky that I was able to hang in there. I was the oldest first-time figure-skating Olympian since 1936, and I stuck around ’til the very bitter end and milked it for all it was worth. And I’m going to do that the rest of my life.”

Gus?

“I was at the top of my game in Sochi four years ago when I got a medal, and eight years of competing at the highest level is very difficult. I don’t know if I’ll make it to Beijing. I’m planning on competing next winter, seeing how it goes, taking things as they come, and rolling with the punches.”

I don’t know if I’ll make it to Beijing.

With the iconic duo returning as heroes to the U.S., both reflected on PyeongChang, using their new icon status to get their message across and how to control the trolls in a talk with Out Magazine.

History makers

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You can lean on me 🙆🏼‍♂️

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“Best moment of my entire life”

Both agreed that finding each other and walking together at the Opening Ceremony was the highlight of the entire Games.

“It was really important for me to find Gus,” remembers Rippon. “We joke around a lot, but being able to experience the Opening Ceremony with somebody that I know has felt a lot of those same feelings as me was important. I thought of everything I had been through as a young kid to get to that moment, and to feel confident, and to feel that I really liked who I was.”

“To be in Pyeongchang, and get to walk into this huge stadium as myself, as an out gay man, and do it alongside Adam was the biggest, best moment of my entire life,” Kenworthy agrees. “And that was why it was so important for me to find him. Because I felt like we had the same story, and I wanted to share that moment with him. It was the highlight of the entire Games for me.”

“It was like sparks flying,” continues Kenworthy. “We met, and hugged, and vented about our accommodation, and talked about the people on our team, and RuPaul’s Drag Race, and then suddenly we were best friends.”

Adam performing in PyeongChang

Ageing gracefully

Adam won bronze at PyeongChang in the team event and his post-performance press conference was as funny, natural, and honest as ever.

 

Troll control

The internet has brought many great things but has also given cowardice a platform and hate a megaphone, both men have had to overcome horrific comments and homophobic venom, often from fellow Americans.

“Being out was such a f***ing cool experience, but no straight athletes were checking their messages or comments the day before their event and seeing death threats and super-hurtful shit from internet bullies,” Kenworthy points out. “The day before my event I read messages that were like, ‘I hope you fall, I hope you break your legs, you’re a piece of shit.’ I had a message that was like, ‘I want to curb stomp you, you f***ot.’ I’m like, OK, cool, there’s someone out there that wants to put my teeth on a curb and stomp on my neck. It takes a lot to read that about yourself and know that there are people out there that don’t want you to succeed.”

I hope you fail, I hope you fall.

“And then you go and represent those people,” Rippon adds. “I’m an American representing the United States of America, and I would get a pit in my stomach every time there was somebody on social media with an American flag in their name. The most consistent message I got was, ‘I hope you fail, I hope you fall. I’ve never cheered against someone in my entire life.’ That was really consistent — it was pretty much across the board. That somebody could go out of their way to say they’re proud of their country and that they love it, and they’re a patriot, and then turn around and taunt their athletes is incredibly disrespectful. They’re the opposite of a patriot.”

Trailblazers

Whatever happens in the future, both have blazed a trail and made the path much easier for others to follow.

“I was just thinking about the Brian Boitanos and the Johnny Weirs and the people that are out now but weren’t when they competed, and I feel like we are just a product of the generation that we grew up in,” says Kenworthy. “It’s amazing that we got to be the first two out American guys to compete at the Winter Olympics. There wasn’t that opportunity for people to do that prior to us, really…I think that fear is real and palpable, and I think it was even more real for people in previous generations.”

“Maybe Gus and I are the face of gay Olympians, but the next gay Olympians will be featured for the incredible stories they have to offer first, not because they’re gay,” Rippon adds. “Being gay will just be a fact about them, like their hometown, or the number of siblings they have, or the high school they went to. It will just be a fact.”

 

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