Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy told SkySports Tuesday he hopes to compete again when the Winter Games are held in Beijing, China in 2022, but not as a member of Team USA. The freestyle skier has switched to his birth nation, Great Britain.
According to an exclusive report by SkySports reporter Joe Tanner, Kenworthy formally joined GB Snowsport Tuesday.
“It’s not very common for a medalist to switch countries but lots of people do choose to ski for a country that one of their parents was from,” Kenworthy, whose mother is British, told SkySports.
”I would just like to be part of the growth of Team 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 U.S 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.”
Just a month ago, Kenworthy’s agent hinted that this switch was in the works, as reported by NBC Sports. The change is as newsworthy as Kenworthy’s decision to compete again, after making statements to Outsports and other outlets that his Olympic days were behind him.
“I feel like I’m at a sort of weird crossroads in my life,” Kenworthy said last year, according to Variety. “I kind of had planned to be done competing at this last Olympics. And then I got hurt in practice. I didn’t ski the way that I wanted to. They say you’re only as good as your last performance. My last performance was not what I had hoped for. It’s made it really hard to walk away.”
The 2014 Olympic ski slopestyle silver medalist was born in Chelmsford, England, half an hour outside London. Kenworthy’s family moved to the U.S. when he was 2 years old. He’s been a frequent visitor to the U.K., making yearly trips to see his mother’s extended family.
“This is definitely going to be my last — my swansong if you will — and I just want to do it for my mum,” he told Skysports. ”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.”
The Winter X Games in January was the one and only event he has competed in since the 2018 Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Kenworthy, 28, has been busy acting on TV, in “American Horror Story: 1984,” as a guest star on NBC’s “Will & Grace,” and in an anti-bullying video with the Mets’ Pete Alonso.
Outsports dubbed his live TV kiss of his boyfriend Matt Wilkas the “gay sports moment” of 2018. And since coming out in 2015, he’s become a social media and pop cultural icon. But a medal eluded him in 2018 in the men’s freestyle slopestyle: he finished 12th in the 12-man final. Kenworthy competed despite a broken thumb and a hematoma of his hip that he said made it difficult to even walk.
Although Kenworthy did not address his current health with SkySports, he did talk at length about his ambition to inspire and encourage closeted athletes to come out.
“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 SkySports.
”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 free skiing.”
According to SkySports, the US Ski Federation didn’t attempt to block his application to become eligible for Team GB.
Kenworthy’s first big event as a member of the British team comes next month. He’ll compete in the Winter X Games in Aspen, January 23-26, 2020, as will Jamie Anderson, Scotty James, Kelly Sildaru, Max Parrot and more. The event will also feature performances from Alesso, Rae Sremmurd, and Bazzi.
Watch a video of Gus Kenworthy speaking with SkySports about his decision by clicking here.