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30 Moments of Pride: Adam Rippon wins bronze at Winter Olympics, and captures America’s heart

Adam Rippon became the first openly gay athlete in U.S. history to medal at the Winter Olympics.

Figure Skating - Winter Olympics Day 8
Adam Rippon captured America’s hearts at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Photo by Amin Mohammad Jamali/Getty Images

For Pride month, we’ve dedicated each day of June to an individual athlete or coach whose shining moment changed LGBTQ sports.

Today, we revisit Feb. 12, 2018, when Adam Rippon won a bronze medal in the figure skating team event for Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, becoming the first openly gay athlete in U.S. history to win at a medal at the event.

Two years ago, America was introduced to a new Olympic heartthrob. But unlike previous subjects of widespread Olympic adulation, this one was unapologetically gay, and unafraid to be his flamboyant and fabulous self. Adam Rippon captured the bronze medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, but more importantly, he stole America’s heart in the process.

Rippon became the first openly gay athlete in U.S. history to win a medal at the Winter Olympics, when he helped his figure skating team take home the bronze. But even without the gold, Rippon left South Korea as an Olympic champion. As our Cyd Zeigler wrote at the time, the Olympic Creed isn’t just about triumph. It’s about struggle, and few recent Olympic athletes have embodied that more than Rippon, who fearlessly delved into rancorous political debates and pushed back against those who stood against him and the LGBTQ community. Prior to competing, Rippon rebuffed a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence, who requested the sit-down after Rippon lambasted him for his long-standing anti-LGBTQ beliefs, including support for gay conversion therapy. It’s worth noting Rippon did offer to meet with Pence when the competition was over.

Though Rippon may not have captured Pence’s heart, he certainly earned the attention of Hollywood, with the likes of Britney Spears and Reece Witherspoon cheering him on. Rippon is a fearless performer with a flair for the dramatic. It’s not surprising Rippon has become a cultural mainstay over the last two years, raking up guest appearances on RuPaul’s “Drag Race” and even wearing a harness on the red carpet at the Oscar’s.

Rippon’s bronze medal win will forever place him in the Olympic record books. But his figure skating triumph is just the beginning of his legacy.

We’ll have another Moment of Pride tomorrow and every day in June.