Adam Rippon: 5 Things About The First Openly Gay U.S. Figure Skater To Qualify For Winter Olympics

Before taking to the ice in Pyeongchang, Adam Rippon has made history. This figure skater is ready to take on Mike Pence, the Olympics and the rest of the world.

Adam Rippon
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Image Credit: Courtesy of USOC/NBC Olympics

1. He’s the first openly gay American man to qualify for the Winter Olympics. Thought he finished fourth at the U.S. figure skating championships on Jan. 6, Adam Rippon, 28, was selected to represent the United States in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. In making the team, this Scranton, Pennsylvania native broke a huge barrier. He became the first openly gay American to qualify for the Winter Olympics, according to NPR. While there have been gay athletes in the past, many have either failed to qualify for the games – like luger John Fennell, 22, – or came out after qualifying, like freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy, 26. Adam was open about his sexuality before making Team USA, which sets him apart from everyone who came before him.

2. He’s also the oldest American “rookie” skater in 82 years. Not to be ageist, but the last time an American skater of Adam’s years hit the Olympic ice for the first time was in 1936, according to the Washington Post. Experience has its perks, though. Adam was selected for the team – joining Nathan Chen, 18, and Vincent Zhou, 17, — because he had a more impressive international track record than Ross Miner, 26, who finished second in the figure skating championships. “I’m really grateful that the selection committee looked at my body of work over the last two seasons,” he said following the selection. “…I feel that my experience will help me have my best performances at the Olympic Games, and it feels amazing to say that.”

3. Adam has no time for the Vice President. The White House announced that Vice President Mike Pence, 58, along with his wife Karen, 61, will lead the U.S. delegation at the Winter Olympics. “You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?” Adam told USA Today. “I’m not buying it.” He also said he would avoid the meet-and-greet between the delegation and the U.S. athletes before the opening ceremony.

“If it were before my event, I would absolutely not go out of my way to meet somebody who I felt has gone out of their way to not only show that they aren’t a friend of a gay person but that they think that they’re sick,” Adam said. “I wouldn’t go out of my way to meet somebody like that…I don’t think he has a real concept of reality. To stand by some of the things that Donald Trump has said and for Mike Pence to say he’s a devout Christian man is completely contradictory. If he’s okay with what’s being said about people and Americans and foreigners and about different countries that are being called ‘shi*holes,’ I think he should really go to church.”

To be fair to the VP, Mike’s association with the controversial “practice” (which is a discredited psychotherapy method aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity) stems from a statement on the website for his 2000 congressional campaign, according to The New York Times. “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior,” Pence’s website read, and many have interpreted this as his support for conversion therapy (even though Mike hasn’t gone on record in support for it.) However, Mike, as governor of Indiana, signed into law the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which has been seen as a conservative method to fight back against the legalization of same-sex marriage. So, you know, Adam isn’t going to be BFFs with the Pences anytime soon.

4. His mother inspired him to take up skating. Adam started skating when he was ten, which is considered late in the sport of figure skating. “My mother used to skate and she took me along to the rink,” he said while speaking with Skate Today. “I didn’t really like it at first, but grew to love it. I have five brothers and sisters, but I’m the only skater. One of my brothers is on the school track team and another brother and my sister are in gymnastics, which I did as well when I was little.” Three years after his first lesson, he was already landing triples.

5. He has a signature move named after him. During his time on the ice, Adam has racked up an impressive list of wins. He won back-to-back World Junior titles (in 2008 and 2009.) He’s also won gold at the 2016 U.S. National Championships. If that wasn’t awesome enough, the man has a signature move! Keep an eye out for the “Rippon Lutz” during the 2018 Winter Olympics, which is a triple lutz done with both arms held over Adam’s head. Will Adam return home with a medal around his neck? If he doesn’t, he’s already entered his name in the history books. Now, all that’s left is to watch him proudly represent the USA at the Winter Games!

To learn more about Adam, visit The Olympics begin live on February 8

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