This gay skier's Olympic journey is a lesson for anyone struggling with their identity.

Four years ago, Olympic freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy hit the slopes in Sochi, Russia, with purpose, eventually landing on the podium with a silver medal. But he wasn’t completely satisfied.

After coming out in 2015, Kenworthy, 26, revealed to ESPN magazine the main reason he was disappointed with his performance: “I never got to be proud of what I did in Sochi because I felt so horrible about what I didn’t do. I didn’t want to come out as the silver medalist from Sochi. I wanted to come out as the best freeskier in the world.”

All Olympians dream of winning gold medals, but to Kenworthy, it was about more than marking personal athletic accomplishment. He’s eager to represent the LGBTQ community in America on the top of the podium as an openly gay man.


This year in Pyeongchang, Kenworthy may finally get to do just that. Today, he’s embracing his role as a representative of the LGBTQ community, competing in front of the entire world. And he’s primed for a gold medal.

Kenworthy in a ski jump. Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images.

In January, Kenworthy spoke with Reuters, saying he feels more confident than ever, in part because he’s able to be his authentic self.

“I am more open with everyone in my life and I think it just translates into me being able to ski a little bit more freely and not have so much to focus on and worry about.”

However, considering he’s one of only two openly gay male athletes to compete for Team USA in the Winter Olympics, he’s also probably feeling the weight of responsibility.

Kenworthy joins 28-year-old openly gay figure skater Adam Rippon this year and both athletes have welcomed this historic opportunity to use their platforms in positive and effective ways, speaking out about the importance of inclusion and diversity at the Olympics — and also in everyday life.

“I’m representing myself and my country on the world stage,” Rippon told USA Today. “I have a lot of respect for this opportunity. What makes America great is that we’re all so different. It’s 2018, and being an openly gay man and an athlete, that is part of the face of America now.”

Hello from Korea 🇰🇷

A post shared by Adam Rippon (@adaripp) on

“I’ve got more eyeballs on me,” Kenworthy told the Associated Press a couple of days before the start of the Winter Olympics. “My platform’s a lot bigger. I signed a bunch of Olympic sponsors, and I have the LGBTQ audience watching me, and I want to do right by them.”

In line with that, he started a new national campaign with Head & Shoulders called “Love Over Bias,” and he appears in a television commercial while proudly wearing a rainbow flag over his shoulders.

“I got to hold a pride flag in a national campaign for the first time in history and that’s just an amazing feeling,” he said on "Good Morning America" while promoting the campaign.

“It’s so much better on the other side, and living your life honestly and authentically is such an important thing that nothing should get in the way of that.”

Gus Kenworthy. Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images.

Being known as a “gay athlete” and even as “the gay skier” doesn’t bother Kenworthy one bit. They are labels he’s not afraid of wearing, and he has no problem sharing his view on the subject.

“I’m definitely ‘The Gay Skier’ now, and that’s OK,” Kenworthy told the Associated Press. “I knew I was stepping into that role when I did it. In some ways, I don’t care that that’s the label that sticks. I took the step to come out publicly and I wear the badge proudly.”

For decades, LGBTQ athletes have struggled for acceptance in and out of locker rooms. Being out could mean losing sponsors, fans, friends, teammates, family, and in some cases, even a roster spot.

Like so many athletes before him, Kenworthy dealt with many of the same struggles. He performed at the highest level of competition while carrying the burden, stress, and heaviness of being in the closet. But he decided that being true to himself as both an athlete and a gay man far outweighed the risks.

As the world watches the Olympics unfold, there will plenty of young LGBTQ viewers and athletes among them. Kenworthy knows this. And he’s ready to show them that it’s more than OK to be true to who you are — it’s the best way to achieve your dreams.

Photo courtesy of Justin Sather
True

Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

While most 10-year-olds are playing Minecraft, riding bikes, or watching YouTube videos, Justin Sather is intent on saving the planet. And it all started with a frog blanket when he was a baby.

"He carried it everywhere," Justin's mom tells us. "He had frog everything, even a frog-themed birthday party."

In kindergarten, Justin learned that frogs are an indicator species – animals, plants, or microorganisms used to monitor drastic changes in our environment. With nearly one-third of frog species on the verge of extinction due to pollution, pesticides, contaminated water, and habitat destruction, Justin realized that his little amphibian friends had something important to say.

"The frogs are telling us the planet needs our help," says Justin.

While it was his love of frogs that led him to understand how important the species are to our ecosystem, it wasn't until he read the children's book What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada that Justin-the-activist was born.

Inspired by the book and with his mother's help, he set out on a mission to raise funds for frog habitats by selling toy frogs in his Los Angeles neighborhood. But it was his frog art which incorporated scientific facts that caught people's attention. Justin's message spread from neighbor to neighbor and through social media; so much so that he was able to raise $2,000 for the non-profit Save The Frogs.

And while many kids might have their 8th birthday party at a laser tag center or a waterslide park, Justin invited his friends to the Ballona wetlands ecological preserve to pick invasive weeds and discuss the harms of plastic pollution.

Justin's determination to save the frogs and help the planet got a massive boost when he met legendary conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall.

Photo courtesy of Justin Sather

At one of her Roots and Shoots youth initiative events, Dr. Goodall was so impressed with Justin's enthusiasm for helping frogs, she challenged the young activist to take it one step further and focus on plastic pollution as well. Justin accepted her challenge and soon after was featured in an issue of Bravery Magazine dedicated to Jane Goodall.

Keep Reading Show less

Another week of 2021 in the books...and now we're fully into September. Holy moly, how did that happen? Pandemic time is so wild.

Another week means another chance for us to counter the doom-and-gloom headlines with some simple rays of sunshine. Need a reason to smile? Here are 10 of them.

Enjoy.

1. This story of quick-thinking generosity on 9/11 is a reminder of the goodness of ordinary people.

Mercedes Martinez shared a story on Twitter about how her dad rented the biggest van he could find just before his flight was grounded on 9/11 because he knew people were going to be stranded. He ended up driving seven scared strangers from Omaha to Denver, took them straight to their front doors, and refused to accept any payment. She wants to find the people he helped. Read the full story here and follow her thread here for updates.


2. A WWII veteran got to meet the girl who wrote him a letter in the third grade, which he's kept with him for 12 years.

Keep Reading Show less