Wesley Rucker Campbell has never really been “in the closet.”
The professional figure skater, who’s now focused on coaching the sport, grew up in Tennessee and realized at an early age that he was attracted to other boys.
Since then he’s made sure he doesn’t hide being gay in a sport where some gay athletes feel pressure to not be publicly out.
“By the time I was 10 I knew I was attracted to guys,” Campbell told Outsports. “I don’t think I was ever exactly in [the closet], and I had this sense of self that was ultimately, if someone didn’t like me, then don’t like me. And I had to just roll with that. It’s not easy for anyone, but it wasn’t particularly hard for me. When I got to that age to make some choices, it wasn’t scary for me.”
His figure skating career has spanned US National Championships and the professional circuit.
In 2004, he earned a bronze medal at the junior championships in singles. His best finish amongst the senior men was seventh in 2008, behind three of the greatest American male figure skaters of all time: Evan Lysacek, Johnny Weir and Jeremy Abbott, all of whom at some point earned top-10 singles results at the Olympics.
While Campbell never got an Olympic nod, he blossomed after transitioning to professional figure skating. Eventually skating professionally to live performances by Ellie Goulding and Andrea Bocelli, his excellence in the professional space afforded him opportunities usually held for World or Olympic Champions.
“I continued to put in the hard work and grow and train like an athlete,” he said. “I had 30 years of skating behind me. The longer you do it, the better you get.”
One interesting week for the out gay skater came when he was hired to perform Broadway On Ice at the Royal Opera House in... Muscat, Oman. With Sharia Law, homosexuality is illegal in Oman and same-sex sexual activity is punishable by imprisonment. According to Equaldex, Oman is one of the five worst countries in the world for LGBTQ rights.
“We had to have conversations with the office about how to make certain things on social media private so it wasn’t a concern,” Campbell said. “We were very looked after and projected. Doing something for the Sultan, safety wasn’t an issue.
“And they loved it.”
Most recently, Campbell was part of Holiday On Ice, where he performed in 137 shows in 29 countries. He also dated fellow tour skater Blake Eisenach through the tour and hung out with friend and Olympic champion Eric Radford.
Campbell is now focused on coaching other figure skaters. Brought in as a coach to the Scott Hamilton Training Club, Campbell said he is now working with some of the highest-potential figure skaters in the country.
“My skillset is mostly in training and the preparation game,” he said. “I know how to get into that zone no matter where you are in your training and your process, to figure out how to put out your best at any given moment.”
That skillset is now serving him well. He had an opportunity to continue to skate professionally deeper into 2023, but he declined it now focusing on coaching others to pursue their dreams.
Part of the equation for Olympic-sport athletes is always financial. While perceptions persist that figure skaters at Campbell’s level may make a ton of money, the reality in 2023 is very different.
“The financial landscape is the scariest,” Campbell said. “None of the athletes make the money they used to.”
As some Olympic-sport athletes have turned to OnlyFans to pay the bills — and yes, almost all Olympic-sport athletes today struggle to pay the bills — Campbell has resisted. He has zero moral objection to any of that, and in fact he said he’s gotten offers from porn companies.
Still, he’s concerned that going down that road may cost him in his coaching profession, which today draws his passion.
For now, he’s committed to helping up-and-coming figure skaters reach their full potential. It’s something he knows a thing or two about.
Campbell’s size never made him likely to succeed in figure skating, a sport designed for shorter, lighter athletes. He succeeded regardless.
“I’m kind of the anomaly because of my body type and size,” said the muscular 6-foot-3 skater. “I’m assumed to be straight in life. I can be whatever I want to be because of my look. I wear cowboy boots, I kind of dress like a straight guy. I just haven’t had to experience much of the people are expecting this of me.”
Still, Campbell has an issue with society’s judgements of men based on their height, weight, attire or otherwise. And he wishes male figure skaters felt freer to express their true selves.
“I hate it. I wish it was just about people doing their thing and being who they are.”
You can follow Wesley Campbell on Instagram.