Gus Kenworthy, a real badass skier from Telluride, Colorado, posted on Twitter on October 22, “Today is the first day of the rest of my life.” This seemingly cliché quote followed up with another post: “I am gay.” Period. He attached a picture from ESPN The Magazine, where Alyssa Roenigk made him the cover story in the November issue of the publication.
At the age of 24, Kenworthy is undeniably the top freeskier on the planet. He is the face of the sport. He competes in slopestyle, big air, and half-pipe events while other skiers dream to master only one area. Kenworthy previously garnered attention as the darling who adopted five stray dogs in Sochi. He placed silver in the inaugural freeskiing slopestyle event in the 2014 Winter Olympics. That day, the United States ski team owned the pedestal, with Joss Christensen and Nick Goepper standing alongside Gus Kenworthy. Making the covers of People and US Weekly, Gus quickly went viral, but he knew that he was deceiving himself. Although being the ultimate skier was his all-time dream, it was only last Thursday that he went forward with his authentic self: an openly gay action sports star at the pinnacle of his career and a lover of puppies.
"I don't want to make skiing less cool," Kenworthy told ESPN. "I hear the snowboarders call us 'skier fags.' And it's frustrating because I'm literally going to live up to that stereotype." In a sport where gay and fag get thrown around as derogatory terms, Kenworthy feared that he would not be accepted. He thus developed a super competitive nature. He sought to be the best freeskier and then reveal the truth. Gus followed through with his promise, as the 2014-2015 season was inevitably his finest yet, and he is now the only athlete to have announced his sexuality at a point in his career where he has a lot to lose. Kenworthy is a damn good skier with sponsors like Nike, Atomic, GoPro, Monster, and others. This step was daring, as he has always been trying new tricks, and admirably, as he has suffered through depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts to emerge a media sensation once again.
In skiing, nonconformity is only well-regarded in terms of athletic achievement. In Kenworthy's case, he landed the first contest run, including four different double corks, in Park City this February. Otherwise, he seamlessly fit in with the community: Monster cap, baggy t-shirt, jeans, and skate shoes. Plus, he has a perfectly chiseled body, flirtatious smile, and lovely sky blue eyes. Being attractive and likable, Kenworthy easily conformed to the skier stereotype and made friends, all of whom unanimously supported him on Thursday.
However, the sport is driven by testosterone. Just at peek at the Freeskier Magazine Snapchat story reveals the “alpha-male” skier idealization. It could not have been difficult for such a sweetheart to pull the hottest chicks. "I know hooking up with hot girls doesn't sound like the worst thing in the world,” Kenworthy confesses. “But I literally would sleep with a girl and then cry about it afterward. I'm like, 'What am I doing? I don't know what I'm doing.'"
Gus Kenworthy knew that he was gay since about the young age of five. Two years ago, he confessed to his family and closest friends, who responded with unrelenting love and pride. This week, his social media community responded likewise. Fellow athletes and Olympians Tom Wallisch and Sage Kotsenburg reached out with support, along with Miley Cyrus, Michael Sam, Ellen Page, and others.
For the sport of skiing, Gus Kenworthy hopes to see rainbow flags at the January X Games--his favorite competition and one where he has yet to seize a medal. Eventually, maybe a story like this one will not need any attention. Meanwhile, Gus Kenworthy proved his worthiness as the world’s most prominent freeskier because he acted as a real athlete, a real icon to look up to.
"I think now I can ski to my ability," Gus Kenworthy said. "After all this, I just have to ski." After all, it is really all about skiing.