Twenty-four-year-old Gus Kenworthy is known for a number of things ¡ª most notably, his impressive track record as an Olympic slopestyle skier and for rescuing stray puppies while representing the USA during the 2014 Olympics. But after coming out as gay in an ESPN interview on Thursday, Kenworthy will also be recognized as one of the few professional athletes who chooses to live openly and authentically despite pressures within the sports industry.
In his emotional interview with the sports publication, Kenworthy revealed how the lack of acceptance in pro athletics (especially action sports) led him to hide the truth ¡ª and even contemplate suicide when he became depressed about keeping such a large secret. “They say it’s a community of individuals and everyone is doing their own thing and it’s not a team sport, so you get to be yourself,” the Association of Freeskiing Professionals champion told ESPN. “But you don’t really.”
After years of covering up his sexuality, Kenworthy’s decision to come out is already changing the sports world . . . in a good way. Now an openly gay athlete ¡ª and one of the best athletes in his sport, period ¡ª the skier is inspiring acceptance and openness within the world of athletics. In an Instagram post following his interview, Kenworthy wrote, “I hope to be that person [to look up to] for a younger generation, to model honesty and transparency and to show people that there’s nothing cooler than being yourself and embracing the things that make you unique.”
We hope that his openness will continue to change the athletics industry for the better and into a place where all are welcome. After all, shouldn’t sports fans be more concerned about an athlete’s performance, not who they love? In both cases, Kenworthy is doing an incredible job. “I want to be the guy who comes out, wins sh*t and is like, I’m taking names,” he told ESPN, and we can’t wait to see him do it. Check out the video below to hear Kenworthy’s insights about being a gay athlete, and read the full ESPN magazine interview when the November issue hits newsstands.