Gus Kenworthy is gearing up to make history.
In 2015, the freeskier was widely praised for opening up about his sexuality in an emotional ESPN Magazine cover story. Now, he’s poised to become the first openly gay male athlete to ever compete at the Winter Games ― and it’s a prospect he doesn’t take lightly.
“The thought of being the first openly gay male ever to compete in the Winter Olympics — I totally embrace that,” Kenworthy told Time magazine Monday. “I so badly want to inspire that community and do well for them. It’s fucking cool.”
The 26-year-old, who is currently in a relationship with “Gayby” actor Matthew Wilkas, also recalled the experience of competing at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, while still in the closet. Looking back, he said he feels “very dishonest and disingenuous,” which makes him even more determined to succeed at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Both Kenworthy and figure skater Adam Rippon, who is gay, are currently competing to qualify for the games, which kick off Feb. 9. They should know their statuses by January. (Luger John Fennell, who came out as gay in 2014 after competing at Sochi, was also in the running, but a Dec. 14 sled malfunction ended his hopes prematurely.)
“I don’t think I could have ever come out as a gay athlete 30 years ago and expected to be successful in my sport,” Kenworthy said. “My story’s indicative of change.”
In 2015, ESPN explained how high the stakes can be for major athletes to come out:
Kenworthy is not an average 24-year-old. He is the top freeskier on the planet, an Olympic medalist, a face of the X Games. He is an elite athlete competing in the world of action sports, where sponsors ― and income ― are inextricably linked to image. In other words, he is an athlete with a lot to lose.
In the two years since Kenworthy came out, he’s become an outspoken LGBTQ rights advocate. One thing he won’t do, however, is accept an invitation from President Donald Trump to visit the White House, as Team USA members have traditionally done after the Olympics.
Pointing to Trump’s anti-LGBTQ platform, Kenworthy told Time he has “no interest in faking support” for the president.
Read the full Time interview with Gus Kenworthy here.