Freestyle skiing became a regular Olympic discipline in 1992, 63 years after the first Academy Awards took place, 23 years before same-sex marriage was legalized in all American states, and 22 years before it was legalized in the United Kingdom.
What’s the correlation between the three? It’s Gus Kenworthy.
The ski star was born in Chelmsford, northeast of London, to a British mother and an American father before moving to Telluride, Colorado, at age 2.
“We fell in love with skiing together,” Kenworthy told CNN Sport’s Alex Thomas. “She learned when she was 40 and I was 3. I just want to do it for my mum. She’s been my No. 1 fan and No. 1 supporter.”
The love for skiing that blossomed in Colorado took him to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, where he won the silver medal for Team USA.
PyeongChang followed in 2018. And, at 28 years of age, Kenworthy has decided that Beijing 2022 will be his final Olympics. This time, he will compete under the British flag to honor his mother.
“She’s waved the American flag and supported me, even though it’s not her country, and I very much want to wave the British flag in support of her.”
And after Beijing, it will be time to move onto new pastures.
“I made the realization at the last Games that I am more than skiing, not because I’m an actor,” Kenworthy explained.
“But I am also a son, I’m a boyfriend, I’m an uncle, I’m a friend. There’s so many things that are more important than just your performance at any given moment in a sport.”
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Kenworthy took time off skiing to make his first foray into acting.
He played Chet Clancy this year on “American Horror Story” and says acting isn’t too different from being in sports.
“He’s (Chet) very much an athlete and that’s one of the things I would describe myself as,” he said.
“When I go into an audition, even if I feel confident and I feel good, and I feel like I’ve rehearsed the script a bunch and I know the sides and I know my lines, then you suddenly get in there and you’re flooded with nerves.
“And that’s the only thing that gives me that same feeling as skiing. That’s the only other thing I found in my life that I get that same sensation.”
But when asked whether he would prefer winning an Oscar or an Olympic gold medal, the decision is easy for Kenworthy.
“I would probably take the Oscar. I think that would open a lot more doors for my future and for what I want to continue doing after skiing. I would love and Olympic gold medal, and that’s what I’m shooting for. But at the end of the day, I’ve already got silver and I feel pretty accomplished.”
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More than sport
Kenworthy has developed into somewhat of a triple-threat. He started as an athlete, he’s made his debut as an actor, and he has become an activist for the LGBT community.
And his proudest achievement to date combined a little bit of everything and came when he was at the top of the freestyle skiing food chain. He had just won his fifth straight title as the world’s best freestyle skier.
In a 2015 ESPN interview, Kenworthy became the first Olympic skier to publicly come out as gay.
He has since become a figurehead for the LGBT community and, in 2017, received a Visibility Award from the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT rights advocacy group.
“The legacy that I want to leave behind, that I’m really proud of, is being an athlete and taking that step to stand up and being supported in that,” he said. “I hope that any athletes in the closet would see my story and Robbie Rodgers, Tom Daly and Adam Rippon, all these other out athletes, and hopefully that will help them take that step, because I do think it’s really important.”
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A kiss between Kenworthy and his then-boyfriend Matthew Wilkas during the 2018 Winter Olympics was captured by TV cameras and used to signify changing attitudes.
After the controversy surrounding Russia’s anti-gay laws before the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) introduced an anti-discrimination clause to its host city contract.
Yet Kenworthy has concerns over gay rights in China, where the next Winter Olympics will take place.
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“I would say I’m frustrated by gay rights in China. But I am excited to go there and compete and be out and proud and hopefully that will have a positive effect. I think visibility is just really important.”