It was the kiss seen around the world.
Gus Kenworthy lost his final race of the 2018 Winter Olympics, but his kiss with boyfriend Matthew Wilkas caused a flood of acclaim and celebration on social media.
It was just a peck on the lips, but the fact that it took place on NBC, live on primetime network TV, in front of tens of millions internationally, made it historic.
Yesterday, the Team USA freestyle skier proudly posted a photo on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook of him and his partner holding hands in front of the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium.
Today’s broken barrier was even more meaningful, as a kiss between an Olympic silver medallist and his partner was treated as run-of-the-mill – mundane, even – by everyone present.
The NBC commentator saw the kiss – a quick show of affection before Kenworthy took to the slopes – and simply told viewers about “his boyfriend, Matt Wilkas.”
Kenworthy came out in 2015, the year after the last Winter Olympics, in Sochi, Russia, so this was his first Olympics as an out gay man.
After the event, he said: “I didn’t even know that that was a televised moment at all, but I think that’s amazing,” according to The Guardian.
Kenworthy explained: “That’s something that I wanted at the last Olympics was to share a kiss with my boyfriend at the bottom and it was something that I was too scared to do for myself.
“And so to be able to do that, to give him a kiss, to have that affection broadcasted for the world is incredible.
“I think that the only way to really change perceptions, break down homophobia, break down barriers is through representation. That’s definitely not something I had as a kid.
“I definitely didn’t see a gay athlete at the Olympics kissing their boyfriend and I think that if I had it would have made it a lot easier for me, so hopefully it did that for other people.”
And the skier – who competed after breaking his thumb and having six vials of blood drained from a hematoma on his hip – said that despite not getting a medal, these Games had been significant.
“If you look at me right now, I’m bummed but I’m not sulking, I’m not crying,” Kenworthy said.
“I’m really proud to be here. Being out at this Games has kind of meant the world to me.
“Just getting to really be myself and be authentic and I think that landing a run in the final, getting on the podium obviously would have been icing on the cake.
“But even though it didn’t happen for me, I still had a wonderful Olympic experience and I’m really happy for the guys that did get on the podium. I don’t know, maybe there’s a next time.”
And he expanded on his pride over competing as an out gay man – one of the first in Winter Olympics history.
”I think that’s the most important thing in the world is for everybody to live their life as themselves, and be authentic and honest,” he said.
“I didn’t really get to experience that in Sochi, so it feels good to have that here.
“It wasn’t the sports result I was hoping for but I’m very proud to be representing the LGBTQ community and happy to be here with other athletes that also are. And just be part of such an amazing and diverse country.”
Speaking to Time Magazine, Wilkas – who starred in 2012 film Gayby – said: “That was like a peck,” with a laugh.
“We should have made out in front of people.”
He added: “It’s unusual, right? It’s good that it’s televised because it normalises it more.
“I would imagine it would be a huge moment for a young gay kid to see an awesome athlete so open and proud of himself and not caring what anyone thinks of his sexuality.”
The actor said that the Kenworthy’s new status as international gay idol has come with a lot of pressure.
“He’s definitely been stressing out a lot,” said Wilkas.
“It’s hard. He wants to be the voice, one of the heroes for his community alongside Adam [Rippon]. But I think it just adds a lot of pressure to the moment. There are people on both sides. The gay community looks up to him, then the people who hate him for being who he is and can’t wait to see him fail. There’s a sense of wanting to prove them wrong.”
When he broke his thumb, Kenworthy joked that at least he wouldn’t have to shake the hand of Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the US delegation in Pyeongchang, and who Kenworthy has criticised for his anti-LGBT views.
“He’s said things about Mike Pence and the White House that provokes people that are easily provoked, that are so open about their hate,” Wilkas said.
“People are saying, ‘I hope you break a leg.’ Literally, things like that.”
On Twitter, people were ecstatic with the kiss.
Dustin Lance Black, who has attracted hate and controversy simply for announcing that he and former Olympian Tom Daley are expecting a child, voiced his support.
He wrote: “LOVE is normal. LOVE is natural. LOVE is humanity’s greatest gift to the world. Thank you for sharing yours with such pride @GusKenworthy. ❤️”
Actor and producer Emerson Collins said: “LOVE hearing @NBC recognize @guskenworthy’s boyfriend Matt!! Along with his mom and of course the @tyleroakley cameo! #Olympics 🏳️🌈”.
One person wrote simply: “I just saw Guys Kenworthy kiss his boyfriend on TV at the Olympics and I’m so happy. 🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈”
And another said: “A kiss from his boyfriend from the top of the slope and a wave of rainbow flags at the bottom!
“Gus Kenworthy, you’re making so many LGBT Americans so very proud of you!!! 🏳️🌈🇺🇸 #Olympics #ItsGusBitch”.
That last hashtag is a reference to the tweet sent by LGBT ally and pop legend Britney Spears ahead of Kenworthy’s event.
She said: “”So proud of #TeamUSA!! Hey @guskenworthy, gimme, gimme more on the slopes today!! #ItsGusBitch 👍😉⛷”.
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Kenworthy reacted in pretty much the same way any Britney fan would.
To the pop star, he replied: “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up! Thank you for this @britneyspears! I will, as always, be bumping to you, today! ❤️❤️❤️”
And then to his own followers, he really let his fanboy flag fly.
“Oh. My. God. Was really not prepared to wake up to this,” wrote Kenworthy.
“Not sure how I’m gonna ski today because I’m LITERALLY dead now but I’m gonna go that extra mile for you, Britney! Ilysm!!! 😭❤️”
Watch the historic kiss below:
— Emerson Collins (@ActuallyEmerson) February 18, 2018