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Gus Kenworthy retires at Winter Olympics after nasty skiing fall: ‘Thank you for everything’

Josh Milton February 19, 2022
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Gus Kenworthy of Team Great Britain reacts after their first run during the Men's Freestyle Skiing Freeski Halfpipe Qualification on Day 13 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics

Gus Kenworthy of Team Great Britain reacts after their first run during the Men's Freestyle Skiing Freeski Halfpipe Qualification on Day 13 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. (Clive Rose/Getty Images)

British freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy has dropped out of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics – and the sport altogether – after a spectacular skiing crash.

The Team Great Britain athlete – who represented America in the previous two Games thanks to his dual citizenship – fell twice Saturday (19 February) and finished eighth in the Freeski halfpipe.

During the men’s final, Kenworthy slammed his back on his second run on the top of the halfpipe curve as intense winds tore through the slopes.

He came crashing down on the lip of the pipe before recovering and delivering a solid performance, with New Zealand’s Nico Porteous taking gold.

Kenworthy, 30, scored 71.25 in what became the final event of his career as he announced he’s hanging up his skis and goggles to pursue acting full-time.

“The final hurrah,” he said to Olympics.com. “My swan song. I’m done, I’m done competing. I’ve had a career that I’m really, really proud of.”

Kenworthy announced on Instagram earlier that day that the halfpipe would be his final day in a bib. “Win or lose,” he wrote, “this one’s for you, mum.”

For Kenworthy, the end of his skiing journey that saw him not only shrug off bruising injuries and illnesses but also fears of how the world would react to a gay athlete to compete was an emotional one.

“Thank you for everything skiing,” he told BBC Sport from the slopes of Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou, China.

“This sport and the Olympics and competing on a professional level has changed my life in ways I could have never imagined.

“I grew up in a town of 2,000 people,” he said of his hometown, Telluride in Colorado. “48 kids in my graduating class.

“I’m gay. I felt like I just didn’t fit in in sport, and to be out and proud, competing at the Olympics and all of the opportunities that have come my way since the Olympics, I couldn’t be more thankful.

“I know that there’s an expiration date and I’m at that date.”

Gus Kenworthy dedicates final Olympic Games to his mother: ‘I love you, mum’

After skiing for America for two Winter Olympics, Gus Kenworthy, born in Chelmsford, England, switched colours to Team Great Britain in 2019.

The decision was a way to honour his biggest fan: his mother.

Pip Kenworthy, the Sochi 2014 silver medallist’s mother from Liverpool, a town in northwest England, has supported her son both on and off the slopes for decades.

“Skiing has meant the whole world to me,” he said. “I started doing this when I was three years old.

“My mum and I learned together. She was 41, she used to sing to me on the chairlift and I would take naps on her lap. She would wake me up at the top and we would do another run.”

Gus Kenworthy of Team Great Britain performs a trick on their first run during the Men’s Freestyle Skiing Halfpipe Final. (Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

As much as he did not manage to round off his pathbreaking time on the ski hill with a medal, it caps off Kenworthy’s incredible rise as one of skiing’s most recognisable faces and a courageously proud gay athlete.

When he competed at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, Kenworthy was terrified that someone would find out he is gay.

Fast-forward eight years, he ended his decades on the snow as an openly gay athlete. He publicly came out in 2015 during an interview with cable sports channel ESPN.

Kenworthy would go on to famously kiss his boyfriend Matt Wilkas on live primetime television seen by millions before his qualifying run at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang.

“It actually really hit me this year,” Kenworthy added to Olympics.com

“I had a few people like guys that are in this field, message me and say that like they looked up to me and it’s like, it chokes me up. It’s amazing.”

“It’s a huge honour like competing as an out athlete,” he said, “I think is the biggest privilege that I’ve ever, and I feel very proud.”

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