GANGHEUNG, South Korea – One of Adam Rippon’s go-to jokes, meant to disarm and empower at the same time, is that being a gay athlete isn’t much different than being a straight athlete.
“Lots of hard work, but usually done with better eyebrows.”
Rippon, who delivered a brilliant performance Monday to help the United States win bronze in the team ice skating competition, joins freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy as the first Americans to compete at the Winter Olympics while openly gay.
It’s an honor he takes seriously. He’s open and outspoken about his sexuality, the challenges of his community and the importance of serving as a role model for kids who are like him. He criticized the
“I have no desire to go to the White House,” Rippon said.
Yet perhaps in a sign of how quickly society has moved on this issue, Rippon is in some ways already over it too, even if the Games are just a few days old. While he proudly notes he’s gay, like every other human he isn’t solely defined by who he chooses to love.
He wants to be a role model for lots of people. He doesn’t want to be marginalized.
“I go out there, it’s not, oh, ‘I was a young gay kid,’” Rippon said. “I think everyone can relate to being different or feeling like they are not good enough or they’ll never make it because they are from a small town. I had those doubts too. I can go out there and show those young kids anything is possible. It doesn’t matter where you are from or what other people say about you, you can put that all behind you, you can go out there and show the world what you have to offer.”
This is a trailblazer seeking to blaze a lot of trails all at once.
He points to being raised in Scranton, Pennsylvannia, the oldest of six, far from the hotbeds of skating. He’s also, at age 28, the oldest first-time American skating Olympian since 1936. That is a testament to never giving up despite setbacks — he was an alternate in 2010 and failed to make the team in 2014. He says he watched much of those Olympics while eating hamburgers from In-N-Out.
This is a sport for young prodigies, not grinders. Yet grinding is how they do it in Scranton.
It’s all part of the story. His story.
“I think sometimes people say, ‘Ah, I’m too old. I can’t do [something],’” Rippon said. “I want to show, [expletive] it, it doesn’t matter. You can do whatever.”
Rippon connects with audiences like few others —