Gus Kenworthy did not win a medal in men’s halfpipe at the Beijing Winter Olympics on Saturday, but it didn’t mean the gay Olympian had no impact.
Kenworthy, 30, in what he has said will be his last Olympics, finished eighth in the 12-man final, with his best score of 71.25 occurring on his third and final run. A day earlier, he barely made the final, snagging the 12th and final qualifying spot.
After skiing in Sochi in 2014 (silver medal) and Pyeongchang in 2018 (12th) in the slopestyle, he decided to ski the halfpipe this Olympics for Great Britain, where he was born.
“Honestly, it means the world to me to get to compete here as an out proud gay man and to know that there are other out LGBTQ athletes that are here competing,” Kenworthy told Reuters on the eve of his competition.
His competing openly with 35 other out LGBTQ Olympians in a nation that has never had an out Olympian in its history is meaningful. Yang Yang, China’s first Winter Olympics gold medalist, said when asked if the country would accept an openly gay athlete: “We welcome the representation of different groups of people. We very much protect and encourage diversity.”
China’s treatment of LGBTQ people is far from accepting, but Yang obviously felt compelled to give the answer she did because people like Kenworthy and others no longer hide who they are.
“I think for anybody that wants to come out but is struggling, I’d just encourage them to try and live their truth or speak their truth, even if it’s just to one person,” Kenworthy told Reuters. “It’s such a liberating experience to tell someone.”
Kenworthy kissing his boyfriend live on national TV prior to his Olympic competition in 2018 is still one of the great LGBTQ sports moments ever.