Gus Kenworthy is skiing in his final Olympic Games. He will walk into retirement having conquered his sport and with a legacy that goes far beyond the slopes.
When Gus came out publicly, it was a bit of a shock. The skiing world is perceived to be incredibly “straight” and macho. He also wasn’t doing it near the end of his career or in retirement, he was sharing his true self at the height of his career.
Gus didn’t have to come out publicly, and certainly not when he did. He was at the top of his game, having just won an Olympic silver medal and with many medals yet to be won. He had endorsement deals, a huge national profile, a boyfriend, and those closest to him knew he was gay already. He could have kept to himself and gone about his business.
Yet he also absolutely had to come out to the world, and he had to do it when he did.
Helping others is in his DNA, as America saw when he and his then-boyfriend saved stray dogs in Sochi during and after the 2014 Winter Olympics, something he did again in South Korea in 2018.
Yet even becoming a darling of the American media and helping those dogs, Gus told me in our conversation four years ago he still “felt like a fraud”: He knew he could help people struggling, like he once did, with who they are.
Gus had to come out when he did because that’s who he is. Whether it’s a naked pic in front of the Prada store in Marfa, kissing his boyfriend on the slopes, chastising host China as he travels to the Beijing Winter Olympics or dishing on RuPaul’s Drag Race, he is always looking to share all of who he is.
His coming out transcended sports. Many of the LGBTQ athletes we write about at Outsports don’t become super well-known in the community. Gus did that. People of all ages know who he is and the power his coming-out had.
“My coming out story is my legacy,” he recently told CNN. “I talk about it all the time... but I do think there is importance to that. There’s been a lack of representation that it’s nice to have that now and I am proud to continue to share that part of myself and hopefully be someone that someone younger than me can look up to.”
Gus has one more run, in the final of the freeski halfpipe, which will take place in primetime Friday night on NBC. The last to qualify for the final — only 12 skiers make it — he’s now looking for one last moment in the sun on his skis.
He’s competing for Great Britain this time around, that in and of itself adding to his legacy. Gus is only the third LGBTQ Winter Olympian to compete at the Olympics for two different countries: Cross-country skier Barbara Jezersek has represented both Australia and Slovenia, and speed skater Marion Wohlrab skated for Germany and the United States.
Even in “retirement,” Gus isn’t going anywhere. He’s previously said he wants to pursue a career in acting, and he has already found success, landing a season role on American Horror Story and a guest appearance on Will & Grace. Now with competitive skiing behind him, he’ll have more time to dedicate to his new chosen craft.
Thank you, Gus, for the great memories you’ve given us these last few years, and we’re looking forward to so many more.