What Gus Kenworthy Brought Back from the Olympics is Greater than Gold

Metrosource’s exclusive interview with Olympian Gus Kenworthy on his Olympic experience, goals for the future and that unforgettable kiss.

After bringing home a silver medal skiing at the Sochi games in 2014, Gus Kenworthy came out, and his appearance at this year’s Olympics in South Korea was one of the most remarkable made by an American LGBT athlete in recent memory — but not in a way that anyone foresaw. Metrosource caught up with him a few hours after he his last run.

METROSOURCE: This was certainly not the Olympics experience you came seeking — between the injuries and becoming the focal point of gay rights on the world stage. What was in your head as all of that was unfolding?

GUS KENWORTHY: A lot was going through my mind as I was preparing. You know, I just wanted to do myself proud, represent my team and my country with some degree of grace if at all possible. I didn’t get to land a run in the final round that I would like to have, and I was dealing with a rough go with the practice. But I was honored to be in the final. And now I get to be happy for friends; happy that they’re getting to have the experience of getting a medal.

Coping With the Media Spotlight at the Olympics

Was it mentally tougher having the media pull you into the political arena while you were trying to focus on your event?

In some ways, yes and in some ways, no. Constantly talking about the competition sometimes makes it more real and more nerve-wracking than it is already. So it’s often a nice distraction to have something else to talk about. And when the topic has any controversy about it, it’s like anything; you get a ton of support and a ton of negativity.

Do you think of your time in the world spotlight as saying something to anyone: The current administration? The global LGBT audience who was watching? The haters on social media?

Well, I can tell you this: If you’re not following my feed, you’re missing out. To the haters, I say: Don’t come for me unless you have “your and you’re” and “there, their and they’re” sorted out — that’s a basic requisite. To the LGBT community, I’d say I hope I represented you well. I feel lucky to have had the chance to represent you, and I hope my doing that makes it easier for others who are coming up in the community and brings some satisfaction to older members of the community as well. As for the current administration, I’d say things need to change. A lot of people aren’t happy and I hope that leads to some understanding on their part that they could make life better for a lot of people.

The Kiss Seen Around the World

Everyone’s still buzzing about The Kiss. It may be the most watched smooch since Kirsten Dunst put a lip-lock on Spider-Man while he was hanging upside down. Have you and your boyfriend (Matt Wilkas) discussed all the fuss?

It’s funny; we haven’t really talked about it. It was no big deal and a no-brainer for me, and I didn’t know the cameras were catching it. Didn’t think anything about it all day until after the competition. It seemed so nominal in the moment. But as kid who’s coming up and trying to be successful, it would have made things easier for me if somebody had done it before I did — because I’d have come out sooner. So I’m hoping it makes it easier on the next generation watching at home, whether they play sports or not.

You came into the games with so much publicity and heavy-hitting corporate sponsorships like the Head & Shoulders “Shoulders of Greatness” campaign. What’s next? Do you think you have a third games in you?

I’m really looking forward to some down time. My body is ready for a rest. As to whether I’ll ski again … Well, the real push will start in two years. Right now, I’m taking a little me time. I’m already one of the older guys on the team this year. If I returned, I’d probably be one of the oldest, if not the oldest. It’s a lot to digest right now.

On Meeting Vice President Mike Pence

If you were offered a moment to meet Vice President Mike Pence, would you?

I think the current push-back against diversity has everything to do with the current administration. The entire campaign was based on fear and hate, and it gave people a chance to rise up. It’s given this minority a platform to lash out against anyone they see as different. And I do believe that hearts and minds can be changed. People are not born with prejudice, and bias can be unlearned.

As far as meeting him? I don’t see the benefit. He’d get an amazing photo op and gets to save face and show face, while in practice as Governor of Indiana and as Vice President, his record has been anything but gay friendly.

Had you known what your experience at the games was going to be, would you have done anything differently?

I don’t think it’s fair to second-guess yourself on these kinds of things. What’s done is done. And there’s the butterfly effect — where if you change one thing, then other things change as well. I’m in a great headspace now. I’m feeling pretty gutted, and it sucks when it’s not your day competitively. But I’m at peace, and I’ve had a moment on the podium — and that was great, too.

Looking to get yourself to the next Olympics? Check out our business directory for LGBTQ-owned and friendly services that can help you.

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Also check out: Alone in the Game Documentary Asks: Where Are All the Gay Athletes?

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Kevin Phinney

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