Photo Credit:  GB Snowsport

Olympic medalist and gay heart throb, Gus Kenworthy, has formally announced he is committing to ski for Team GB at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. He made it official last week when he joined GB SnowSport which is the national governing body for skiing for Team GB.

Kenworthy, who competed and won a silver medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and also competed at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongyang, South Korea made the decision to change teams to honor his mother. While Kenworthy grew up in Telluride, Colorado, he was born in Chelmsford, Essex in the UK and holds a British passport. His mother, who is British, has been a strong supporter in Kenworthy’s athletic career since he could first pick up ski poles.

At the 2018 Winter Olympics, Kenworthy was unable to match his silver medal accomplishment due to a training run injury sustained just a few days before his main event. For Kenworthy though, the event was about more than just medals as he went into it as one of two openly gay male athletes to represent the US at the winter Olympics for the first time. During his competition, Olympics sports broadcast network, NBC, showed Kenworthy’s family proudly flying the rainbow flag and even included a clip of Kenworthy’s boyfriend at the time giving him a good luck smooch before the race. This was a huge step forward for NBC who had just 10 years prior, was criticized for purposely editing out such displays of affection with openly gay diver, Matthew Mitcham kissed is boyfriend. Additionally, Kenworthy became fast friends with figure skater Adam Rippon and speedskater Brittany Bowe as the three open LGBTQI athletes representing the USA. This is especially meaningful for Kenworthy, in an interview with SkySports News, he shared his story;

“It’s not easy to come out – it’s quite scary – and I think, because there is a lack of people that have done it, that makes it even more scary,” he told Sky Sports News. “There certainly is a stigma that surrounds it and, if you’re in a team sport, then there’s a fear that you are going to mess up the team dynamic, and that things are going to change or shift, and you don’t want to be responsible for that. 

“If you’re in an individual sport, you’re worried about losing endorsement deals or being judged poorly, so all those fears are valid unfortunately.

“But once you do come out and take that leap of faith, people will tell you that it’s very liberating, that it’s very freeing and usually you perform better.

“We have to support athletes that have made that step and really lift them up because that is the thing that will encourage more and more people to come out.

“I’ve heard so many people say that they played sports through college or university and didn’t pursue going pro because they were gay and didn’t feel welcome – there’s locker room and antics that happen with coaches that make kids feel unsafe.

“Every time you have a gay athlete stepping up and coming out or a gay athlete medalling, a team has a Pride Night at their game, little things like that are just cracks in the dam until the water breaks through.

“I definitely think that the biggest thing I can do for the younger generation is be a visible representative, especially for any young LGBT kids in the sport.

“I am gay and it does a lot having someone that you can identify with. When I was growing up, there weren’t any gay skiers that I looked up to, so I hope to be that.

“But I hope to help participation in skiing, whether it is at dry slopes or snow domes, just to hopefully create a new generation of people coming up and freeskiing.”

Kenworthy’s switch to Team GB serves as a tribute to his mother and he plans for the 2022 games to be his last before his official retirement.

“This is definitely going to be my last – my swansong if you will – and I just want to do it for my mum,” he said. “She has been my number one supporter; she learned how to ski when I learned how to ski. She was 40 and I was three and it was this thing that we fell in love with together.

“She is British, I was born over here and I’m just going to pay tribute to her and my heritage and do it for Great Britain.

“It’s not very common for a medallist to switch countries but lots of people do choose to ski for a country that one of their parents was from.

“I would just like to be part of the growth of GB. I want to come in and bring more eyeballs and more attention to GB Snowsport and have a path of lesser resistance than I have had in the US.

“I compete in multiple disciplines and for the US, our qualifying process is right up until the Games. It is rigorous and my body was basically destroyed right up until the last Olympic Games.

“For GB, I will be able to have my rest ahead of time, focus on tricks, and focus on how well prepared I can be for the Games.”

With his medal winning performance in 2014, and hearts winning performance in 2018. For 2022 Kenworthy can combine the strengths of both those performances to end his career on a high note, while leaving a strong legacy for the next generation of LGBTQI athletes to come and help shape the future of sports.

By Dirk Smith