Adam Rippon has opened up about being flooded with letters from gay teens.
The Winter Olympics star has become a high-profile advocate for LGBT rights while competing in South Korea, speaking out against US Vice President Mike Pence.
The 28-year-old figure skater won a bronze medal on his debut appearance at the Pyeongchang Games.
He paid tribute to to the “overwhelming” support he’s received as one of the first openly gay men to compete at the Winter Olympics after the victory.
His agent, David Baden, told USA Today that one letter had really moved the skating star.
It was from a young man, an 18-year-old from the Midwest, who said he was gay but comes from a family that doesn’t accept his sexuality.
“The young man said he’s been struggling so much and felt he had no way out,” Baden said, “but when he heard about Adam’s story, he felt that Adam was giving him hope.
“He said Adam’s bravery inspired him to write and that even though he’s still struggling, seeing Adam as such an incredible example helps him.”
He passed the email on to Rippon, who admitted to being moved.
Responding to the letter, Rippon said: “Absolutely. It’s so important. I would just tell him that there’s nothing more liberating than to really own who you are.
“It’s one of the best feelings in the world to be comfortable with who you are, not care what other people think and just really embrace your true potential because that’s really when you realize that anything is possible.”
“I think that being vocal has kind of given my skating more importance,” Rippon added.
“It’s not just for me. I go out there because it’s not just, oh, I was a young gay kid. Everybody can relate to being different, or feeling like they’re not good enough.
“I had those doubts too. I can go out there and I want to show those young kids that anything is possible.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what other people say about you.
“You can put that all behind you and you can go out there and you can show the world what you have to offer.
“I think coming to the Olympics has been a really wonderful opportunity for me to share my viewpoint. It’s given my skating a greater purpose.”
Rippon’s medal-winning performance came in the same team event in which Eric Radford became the first ever openly gay man to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics.
“Being here at the Olympics does give me a louder voice,” said the skater. “It has given me a platform. It’s given me a voice to reach to young kids.
“I’ve gotten so many messages I could even get emotional thinking about it… I’ve gotten so many messages from young kids all over the country that my story’s resonated with them.
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“It’s incredibly powerful this platform that you can have at the Olympic Games.”
He added after the news conference that he has started responding to an email from an 18-year-old outside Detroit who had written to Rippon to tell him the skater had given him hope.
“I really want to take my time with this,” Rippon said.
And he refused to stop speaking out in support of LGBT rights, especially as he now has countless children and young adults looking up to him.
“In the past week, in addition to all the support I’ve gotten, I’ve heard a lot of people say, Adam Rippon should tone it down, and blah blah blah,” he said. “I can’t. I can’t tone it down.”
“I’m being me and I’m being myself and I’d be doing myself an injustice and I’d be doing an injustice to those kids who don’t feel like they’re comfortable to be themselves.”