An incident at the Sochi Olympics inspired him to come out.
A few days after winning a silver medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy was asked by an NBC reporter who his “crush” was. It was the day after Valentine’s Day, and Kenworthy wanted to say his boyfriend. Instead, he shied away from outing himself before an international audience and said, “Miley Cyrus.”
— WELOVEYOUMISHA (@alwaysklancespn) March 5, 2014\n
Kenworthy’s admission earned him the attention and eventual friendship of Cyrus. The pop star fawned over photos of Kenworthy and the four puppies he rescued from Russia with his boyfriend who was conveniently left out of the story. But the fact that he lied about his sexuality in front of such a huge audience haunted the skier. “I love Miley Cyrus, she’s great,” Kenworthy told Time. “But I just remember feeling very dishonest.”
The following year, after winning a fifth straight Association of Freeskiing Professionals overall world title, Kenworthy came out in ESPN the Magazine.
I am gay. pic.twitter.com/086ayvChq2— Gus Kenworthy (@guskenworthy) October 22, 2015\n
Since coming out, Kenworthy has earned sponsorships from Visa, Procter & Gamble, United Airlines, Deloitte, and has been honored by the Human Rights Campaign. In February, Kenworthy plans to compete in both slopestyle and halfpipe skiing at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“The thought of being the first openly gay male ever to compete in the Winter Olympics — I totally embrace that,” Kenworthy told Time. “I so badly want to inspire that community and do well for them. It’s fucking cool.”
However, other openly LGBTQ male athletes, such as Canadian skater Eric Radford and U.S. skater Adam Rippon, may officially qualify for the Olympics ahead of Kenworthy. We may get to see multiple gay men breaking the mold as “first” collectively.
While Kenworthy would be proud to represent his country in the Olympics, he says he would plan on skipping the traditional Team USA trip to the White House. “I have no interest in faking support,” Kenworthy said. A major reason for his decision is Trump’s attempts to ban transgender people from serving in the military. “It shows more courage to leave the house as a trans person than Trump has ever had to show.”
Update and correction 1/9/2018: Revisions to this story were made to clarify that other openly gay male athletes are also poised to compete at the 2018 Winter Games and may share the title of “first.”