The world saw him as the top freeskiing athlete with a tremendous gift, endless potential and grace. Yet he saw nothing but a fake, a coward, and a liar.
His name is Gus Kenworthy. A 24-year-old, Telluride native who has swept the podiums in the Big Air, Slopestyle and Half-pipe divisions of freeskiing for the past six years. Ranking as the world’s top freeskier for the past five.
He was one of the famous three-slopestyle skiers from the U.S. that swept the podium at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, during the inaugural Men’s Slopestyle Skiing event. Kenworthy took home a silver medal along with the “Sochi puppies” which would rocket him to social media stardom.
Yet the world was only seeing a mere part of Kenworthy, who had been battling an internal war for the past two decades.
“I am gay.”
That was the first sentence of the social media blast he put forth on Thursday afternoon. He said he knew since he was a small child that he was gay, but competing in a testosterone filled sport, he didn’t believe that coming out was an option.
Instead he kept the secret close to him, only coming out to his family and friends roughly two years ago. He made a deal with himself that only after he had become the best freeskier in the world would be come out to the rest of the world.
“I never got to be proud of what I did in Sochi because I felt so horrible about what I didn't do," Kenworthy says in a recent article with ESPN. "I didn't want to come out as the silver medalist from Sochi. I wanted to come out as the best freeskier in the world."
Kenworthy’s announcement wasn’t just a life changing statement for himself, but for his community at large. For his entire career Kenworthy has been labeled as the “guinea pig” for his sport, as he was always the first to try the newest jump, and tricks like the double cork 1260. Yet now he has set a precedent for not only other action sport athletes but also youth around the world. Being the first openly gay action sport athlete, means opening doors that before had never existed.
For years he had swept numerous competitions like the world championships, and the Olympics—but never the acclaimed Winter X Games.
"X Games has been the death of me," Kenworthy says. "I've won every contest on tour and medaled at the Olympics, and I've never won a medal in Aspen."
The X Games has always been more than a competition. Athletes, sponsors and fans can attest it is almost a way of life. The X Games is the most publicized action sports competition in the world, and grants you privilege to delve into the lives of the athletes, while simultaneously allowing you to party by their side as the weekend rolls on in Aspen, Colorado.
Without carrying the weight of his secret on his shoulders and hiding his boyfriend in the crowds, the world is anxious to see how Kenworthy handles his next run down the infamous Buttermilk Mountain.
"I was insecure and ashamed," he says. "Unless you're gay, being gay has never been looked at as being cool. And I wanted to be cool."
Gus Kenworthy is now not only the top freeskier in the world, but an openly gay male Olympian and action sport athlete. He has taken on the world, and the support he has received since his announcement has “completely floored” him.
His latest step has opened the channels for not only the discussion of the evolving role the gay population is playing the in the United States—but also the relationship between sports and homosexuality. Kenworthy was nervous about coming out for the fear that his sponsors, and the sport that nurtured him his entire life—would turn their backs on him.
He feared that all of his accomplishments, and that silver medal he took home from Sochi would be overshadowed and diminished by his sexuality. Once again harking to the mindset many people have concerning those who like the same sex. Just because someone prefers something that isn’t deemed the “norm” doesn’t make his or her accomplishments any less.
By opening up to the world about his true feelings, Kenworthy has brought to light a conflict that needs to be addressed and discussed. Although the world is slowly evolving, the stigma around being gay and coming out is still hindering some from achieving their true potential.