Record number of out LGBTQ athletes promote the Winter Olympics
The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi was one strife with controversy and tension as the eyes of the world narrowed on the homophobic regime of Russia, which was famously disputed by the U.S. team entering the opening ceremony in rainbow uniforms, an instant iconic moment. Nevertheless seven queer, female athletes competed in the games, but none from the U.S. For the first time ever, the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang has out male athletes, two of whom are from the United States, and a record number of 13 openly LGBTQ athletes.
Gus Kenworthy and Adam Rippon are the first openly gay men to represent Team USA at the Winter Olympics. Figure skater Rippon, 28, came out as gay in 2015, making him the first openly gay figure skater, and also the oldest American to make the team. Rippon became the first openly gay man to qualify for the Olympic team this January, followed shortly afterwards by Kenworthy. Many out athletes have competed in the larger Summer Olympics, most notably is perhaps British bronze-medalist Tom Daley, who came out in a famous YouTube video. Daley married Dustin Lance Black, the American, Oscar-winning screenwriter of Milk, in 2017. Other athletes who came out as LGBTQ after their Olympic careers include Caitlyn Jenner.
Freestyle skier Kenworthy, 26, won a silver medal during the 2014 Winter Games, and famously stayed behind for more than a month following the closing ceremony in order to rescue and adopt stray dogs in Sochi. One of the most recognizable and famous faces representing the United States team, Kenworthy has modeled, appeared on The Ellen Show, and been endorsed by Head & Shoulders shampoo (in which he appeared with a rainbow flag) and United airlines, wearing a modified version of the Captain America suit.
After coming out in 2015 with the goal of helping young gay athletes and being an LGBTQ activist, Kenworthy has been public about his relationship with actor Matthew Wilkes, and the two posed together for Out Magazine in 2016. Both Kenworthy and Rippon have been vocal about their opposition to Mike Pence leading the US delegation in Pyeongchang. Rippon has reportedly refused to meet with Pence before the games, and both Rippon and famed skier Lindsey Vonn have stated they would refuse to visit the Trump White House if invited. Kenworthy is an avid supporter of Hillary Clinton, who stated in an interview that she is excited for the two men and to watch them compete.
As the first openly gay, male, US athletes to compete in the Winter Olympics, Rippon and Kenworthy will have the eyes of the nation watching them as they shoot for gold over the two and a half week long 2018 Olympic Games in South Korea. Tune in to NBC or NBCSN to watch the majority of the events on their channels, or log in to the livestream on NBCOlympics.com or on the NBC Sports Mobile app.