Olympic freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy, who snagged silver in Sochi and won hearts for his efforts in rescuing stray puppies, has just come out as gay. The revelation was part of ESPN The Magazine’s Coming Out issue, and while Kenworthy had come out to friends and family two years ago, he is definitely an athlete with a lot on the line should his fan base fade with his coming out.
“I pushed my feelings away in the hopes that it was a passing phase but the thought of being found out kept me up at night. I constantly felt anxious, depressed and even suicidal,” Kenworthy admitted in the interview, according to Attitude.
Kenworthy seemed to feel some relief in knowing what his interview was about to reveal. He tweeted something that appeared to acknowledge his coming out interview, which was due to hit the web on October 22.
Today is the first day of the rest of my life.
— Gus Kenworthy (@guskenworthy) October 22, 2015
Kenworthy acknowledged the challenge in choosing the right time to come out to the public. He noted that his efforts were always focused on trying to be the best he could in his sport, and he felt that being gay might color his image negatively.
“Unless you’re gay, being gay has never been looked at as being cool. And I wanted to be cool,” he said.
Kenworthy said that growing up, he knew there was a great deal of pressure for skiers to be involved with good looking girls, and he would feel depressed every time he slept with one. He acknowledged crying and questioning what he was doing every time he was intimate with a woman. Finally, in January of this year, not even a full year out from resounding success in Sochi, Kenworthy found that his world was crashing around him. His boyfriend left him, taking the two dogs that Kenworthy had adopted from Sochi with him. He had arrived in Aspen to compete in the X Games as the favorite and failed to even medal in the event.
Following the event, Kenworthy said he was ready to retire from freestyle skiing. He’d had enough of derogatory comments about gay skiers in his field and was tired of fighting. Both his agent and his father, however, wanted to see him continue. Kenworthy said he gave himself some time and then went on to win accolades at the Mammoth Mountain Grand Prix, the Shaun White Air + Style and in a February event in Park City, he nabbed the honor of being the first freeskier to include four different double corks in his routine.
After writing that he was, in fact, gay, Kenworthy noted, “Wow, it feels good to write those words. For most of my life I’ve been afraid to embrace that truth about myself. Recently though, I’ve gotten to the point where the pain of holding onto the lie is greater than the fear of letting go, and I’m proud to finally be letting my guard down.”
Canadian freeskier Justin Dorey acknowledged Kenworthy’s dominance in freesking athletics.
“Gus is the only athlete who is talented and driven enough to win in (slopestyle, halfpipe or big air),” Dorey said. “And he did that last year. He’s the best contest freeskier in the world. He has the head on his shoulders to be the icon.”
Kenworthy said while he started to contemplate the X Games for next year, and how it would be great to see “Gus Kenworthy’s boyfriend” cheering him on in the stands, he knew it was time he started being open about a secret he has held for 24 years.
Dorey added that he was not surprised that Kenworthy was the one standing up and being the “gay icon” for freeskiing. Following the release of Kenworthy’s interview in ESPN the Magazine, Tiger Shaw, president of the US Ski and Snowboard Association, lauded Kenworthy for his decision to come out, according to Attitude.
“Today, we admire Gus for having the strength to tell the world who he is as a person, and paving the way for others to do the same.”
[Feature image by Scott Halleran/Getty Images Sport]