On Thursday morning, Gus Kenworthy, on Twitter, wrote: “I am gay.” Attached to the tweet was an image of a cover of ESPN the Magazine. On it, Kenworthy, looking away from the camera in a black shirt, is putting goggles on. The cover reads: “Exclusive—Is being the best in the world enough to be accepted? Coming out in the post-Michael Sam world.” His tweet has been retweeted 3,500 times and favorited 7,000 times. His story, by Alyssa Roenigk, is part of ESPN’s Being Out issue.
In a longer post on his Instagram account, Kenworthy shared part of the reason he had a difficult time as a kid was not knowing anyone in the same position and didn’t have someone to look up to. “I hope to be that person 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,” he wrote.
The announcement that Kenworthy is gay is not a big deal. The fact that a skier is now the most famous contemporary gay male athlete is. Michael Sam, a defensive end, came out before the NFL draft in 2014, but he was cut from the St. Louis Rams before being relegated to the less competitive Canadian Football League. In 2013, Jason Collins, an NBA player, came out as gay, becoming the first active male athlete in the big four sports to do so. Collins saw limited playing time after that and is now retired.
Kenworthy was long at the top of his field in skiing, but at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, he became a national star. He won silver, part of a U.S. medal sweep, in the Slopestyle event, and garnered even more attention on social media for the collection of stray puppies he adopted.
He currently holds the number one AFP world ranking. He is ranked number four in halfpipe, number five in slopestyle, and number 23 in big air.