After missing out on the 2010 and 2014 Olympic teams, 28-year-old Adam Rippon made history today as he became the first openly gay U.S. athlete to qualify for the Winter Olympics.
But the achievement doesn’t come without some controversey.
After an exceptional short program Thursday night at the U.S. Nationals, Rippon fell on his opening quad jump in the long program and missed two critical triple jumps. Those mistakes landed him in fourth place.
But the U.S. Nationals, while important, don’t dictate the Olympic team.
Due to his strong international resume (2016 U.S. champion, two-time Junior World Champ), he was chosen for the team instead of U.S. Nationals second place finisher Ross Miner, who clearly had the long skate of his career Saturday night.
Rippon joins 2018 National champion Nathen Chen who won with a 40 point lead over his competitors. The third member of the Men’s U.S. team will be 17-year-old Vincent Zhou who claimed the bronze medal last night and many believe to be the future of American men’s figure skating.
Rippon, who came out in 2015, spoke to reporters this week about how much the moment means to him and the LGBTQ community.
“I think in this day and age, it’s so important for you to be proud of who you are. I can’t believe I am where I am today. I was just a little gay kid in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania,” said Rippon. “Growing up I didn’t have a lot of role models. I said if I was ever given a platform and had a chance I would share my story.”
I was recently asked in an interview what its like to be a gay athlete in sports. I said that it’s exactly like being a straight athlete. Lots of hard work but usually done with better eye brows.
“Every disappointment I’ve ever had has made me so much stronger and so much better. I wouldn’t be the person I am now, I wouldn’t appreciate what I’m doing right now as much as I do if I didn’t have those ups and downs of not making the team, of breaking my foot, of feeling like I’ve come up short.”
He was shaky during the six-minute warmup but coaxed himself to relax. “I said, ‘Girl, you tight,’” he recalled. It worked, putting him in position to become one of the few openly gay figure skaters to compete at the Olympics.
He joked that being a gay athlete is “exactly like being a straight athlete, only with better eyebrows,” but he’s serious about being a role model to kids because he never had one.
“I think sharing my story has made me a better competitor because I don’t really care what other people think of me. I’m able to go out there and I’m really able to be unabashedly myself. And I love myself,” he said. “When I’m able to go out there and just really be me, I’m able to put my hard work forward and I want somebody who’s young, who’s struggling, who’s not sure if it’s OK if they are themselves, to know that it’s OK that there are so many people out there who have the same worries. …If you set your mind to something, you can truly do anything.”