(Reuters) - U.S. Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy, who won a silver medal at last year’s Sochi Winter Games, came out as gay in a cover story for ESPN The Magazine published on Thursday, making him the first openly gay action sports athlete.
The 24-year-old top-ranked freeskier in the world said he knew he was gay since he was 5 and that family and friends were supportive when he told them two years ago, according to the article which will hit newsstands on Oct. 30.
Kenworthy, who was part of an American podium sweep in the inaugural slopestyle event at the Olympics and a regular in the Winter X Games, took to Twitter on Thursday to thank those who have supported his decision to come out.
“Just watched my story air on @EPSN @SportsCenter,” Kenworthy tweeted, “and I’m all choked up. Tears of joy! Thanks for your support :)”
Kenworthy, who clinched Olympic silver with a score of 93.60 on his second run after falling in his first at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, told ESPN he only wanted to come out after he had proved himself to be the very best in his sport.
“I never got to be proud of what I did in Sochi because I felt so horrible about what I didn’t do,” said Kenworthy. “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.
“I always felt like I had something to prove, like I had to work twice as hard to make sure I got it,” he said of the challenge facing him as a gay skier before he came out. “I knew I didn’t want to be a good skier. I wanted to be the best.”
Kenworthy follows in the footsteps of other high-profile athletes who have come out — including former National Football League player Michael Sam and recently retired National Basketball Association player Jason Collins.
Now that he has come out, Kenworthy is “nervous” about the reaction he could get from within his sport.
“Everyone wears a Red Bull or Monster or Rockstar cap, a T-shirt and jeans and skate shoes,” said Kenworthy.
“Everyone drives the same type of car and listens to the same kind of music. The industry isn’t the most embracing of someone who’s different. I’m nervous about that.”
The profile on Kenworthy is part of ESPN The Magazine’s “Being Out Issue,” which will also feature American soccer player Megan Rapinoe, American triathlete Chris Mosier and college basketball player Derrick Gordon.
Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Additional reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue