Gus Kenworthy was terrified about the consequences of coming out as gay in 2015 but the American skier says that his decision prompted a huge outpouring of unexpected support and has allowed him to compete without the weight of the world on his shoulders. Kenworthy, an Olympic silver medal winner in the ski slopestyle at Sochi, came out in a cover story for ESPN The Magazine to become the first openly gay action sports athlete. “I had set myself up for the worst case scenario,” he told Reuters by telephone from his winter base in Colorado. “I thought I was going to be turned against and become this pariah.” Kenworthy had already told his close family and friends, who were all very supportive. Their support, along with a desire to be an inspiration for other young men and women scared to come out as homosexual, drove Kenworthy to make the decision. “I knew I would feel so much better because I was being authentic and maybe it would help kids going through the same transition as me,” said Kenworthy. “I thought it would maybe help other people, either in professional sports or amateur sports or even just in communities where they felt isolated and scared to be themselves.”
Kenworthy says his decision has led to a change in what he calls his “headspace” going into competitions. Instead of compartmentalizing his life he is able to be himself and this has contributed to a greater sense of freedom and confidence. The change means Kenworthy is more confident than ever heading into the Pyeongchang Winter Games next month. “I am more open with everyone in my life and I think it just translates into me being able to ski a little bit more freely and not have so much to focus on and worry about,” he added. Despite his achievements on the slopes, Kenworthy is known by many as the ‘gay skier’. Instead of shying away from the tag, Kenworthy has embraced it and hopes to serve as an inspiration for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) around the world. If, as Kenworthy says, he can be a gay man at the top of the world, an Olympic gold medallist, then it would prove a lot of people wrong.” The Olympics is a cool opportunity to represent our country, which is amazing, but I have another community I am competing for and that is the LGBT community.