Adam Rippon has denied his status as a gay icon.
The Olympic bronze medal-winning figure skater had a spectacular Games on and off the ice, as he became – as he put it – “America’s sweetheart.”
His 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.
But, speaking to The Washington Post, the Team USA athlete said he did not want to just be an example to gay people, but to everyone.
“I think one thing I want people to come away (with) from this competition is that I’m not like a gay icon and I’m not America’s gay sweetheart,” said Rippon.
“I’m America’s sweetheart and I’m an icon.”
He explained that he looked forward to a time when athletes like he and fellow gay US athlete Gus Kenworthy were recognised for their sporting prowess alone.
“You know, I think that right now, I think Gus and I are sort of pegged as ‘the gay Olympians,’ ” he said. “And I think at the end of the day, that we’re just Olympians.
And I think we’re ‘gay Olympians,’ and the next gay Olympians will just be called Olympians, and I think that’s what we really hope, that it won’t be a story.
“It shouldn’t be a story, but right now, it is… but I hope that in 2038, that those ‘out’ athletes on the team, that nobody’s interested in that story because it’s old news and everybody is comfortable to be themselves.”
Rippon added that coming out had made him stronger – possibly even more so than his straight counterparts.
“I think you spend so much time worrying about what other people think about, that you realise that you had all of this extra energy that you didn’t need to be using,” he said.
“And you know, I think straight people never have this experience of coming out.
“And it’s such a life-changing moment that you become so strong. I gained so much power and strength from that moment.”
Kenworthy, who hit the headlines for kissing his boyfriend Matthew Wilkas on live TV during the Pyeongchang Games, agreed with his teammate.
The American freestyle skier said: “I agree with what he said about it being effortless, because when I was in the closet, it was so much effort to stay in the closet and constantly worrying, and fearing I was going to fall asleep before the other guys on my team and say something in my sleep, or anything.
“I was just, all the time, always nervous that I was going to out myself, that someone was going to find out, and it was this horrible, horrible thing.
“And now that I’m out, and I realise how great it is,” he continued, “and I’m just getting to enjoy my life, I feel like I just feel free and liberated and I’m competing better, interviews, anything, I just get to be myself, and it’s a strange thing to be thanked for that, but it’s also amazing.”
Rippon said: “It’s like the greatest gift I think we’ve given ourselves.”
“In terms of it making you weak,” Kenworthy added, “I almost feel like in a lot of ways it probably makes you stronger, because you’ve had this internal battle for so much of your life.”
Rippon said he felt the same way: “I feel so much stronger since coming out.
“Like, now I’m the fully actualised monster I’m supposed to be,” he joked.