Gus Kenworthy On What's Different About The 2018 Winter Olympic Games, Life After Coming Out & Living For 'The Bachelor'

If you’re a fan of action sports, chances are you’ve been awed by Gus Kenworthy for years. As one of the top free-skiers in the planet, Kenworthy has given us no shortage of reasons to be impressed by him. He won overall titles at the AFP world championships in 2011, 2012 and 2013. He won a silver medal in the winter Olympics in 2014 and a bronze medal at the X Games and he’s a member of Team Galaxy, which is Samsung’s campaign with the Olympics. In short, the dude’s a legend.

But, recently, we’ve gotten an opportunity to see a different side of Gus Kenworthy—not Gus the Olympian, but Gus the person. As soon as Kenworthy entered the public eye as an incredible free-skier, he’s gotten a ton of media attention. How could he not? He’s famously charismatic and good-looking and, when he went to Sochi for the 2014 Olympics, he literally rescued five stray dogs. I mean, come on!

In 2015, the world got to know Kenworthy on a more authentic level, when he came out as gay in an emotional ESPN profile. Since coming out, Kenworthy has been able to show even more of his true colors and has charmed audiences on Conan, ABC News and even Tyler Oakley’s YouTube channel.

When someone’s such a beast of an athlete, it can be difficult to believe he’s a real person too. Luckily, I had the opportunity to chat with Kenworthy and I came to the conclusion that not only is he a real person, but he’s a really funny, genuine guy. Don’t take my word for it, though—read our convo for yourself!

HC: Other than competing, what are you most excited about for the Pyeongchang Olympics?

Kenworthy: I’m most excited for the Opening Ceremony—just getting to be there and embrace being there and take it all in. Last time, I was so overwhelmed by it all that I wasn’t able to soak it all in and it felt like it was gone in a flash. So this time I really want to be as present as possible, take a lot of photos, but really just embrace everything that’s happening around me so that I can remember it for a long time to come. Because I’m out this time around, I’ll get to really be myself and just enjoy the experience. 

HC: Speaking of the fact that you’re out this time around, what differences do you anticipate this Olympics compared to the 2014 Olympics?

Kenworthy: It’s weird because so many things in my life have changed, but really, things are more or less the same. I think this time around, I’m just gonna get to be myself. At the last Games, I was sharing a room in the athletes’ village with my best friend. I hadn’t told him [that I’m gay] and I wanted to tell him, because of things that were going on in my personal life and the anti-LGBTQ laws that were in place in Russia. I was really tempted to tell him but I didn’t want to affect his Olympic experience and I didn’t want to take him out of the competitive mind that he was in and so I waited and I told him right after the games.

I think this time around, it will be nice not having any pressure and not feeling like I’m hiding something. There’s nothing to worry about because it will all be out there.

HC: What is your advice to people who are struggling with the decision to come out?

Kenworthy: For anybody that’s in the closet that’s struggling, I would just encourage them to look within themselves and take time to acknowledge themselves for who they are, the things that make them unique and the things that make them special—sexuality and all the different components of their personality and really just try to embrace those things. I think the sooner that people can share their true self with the world, the sooner the world is going to be able to accept them and embrace them. The most freeing, liberating thing you can do for yourself is to finally be open about who you are.

HC: In your ESPN profile, you said, “I wanna be the guy who comes out, wins shit and is like, ‘I’m taking names.’” How do you take criticism and judgment and use it as motivation and how do you think college students can apply that to their lives?

Kenworthy: Anybody who’s going out of their way to cut you down is already below you. Although it’s hard to hear criticism about yourself and hear people say negative things about you, anybody who’s doing that is already showing their true colors and showing that they’re not worth their time. So it’s better not to acknowledge it and not waste your energy getting upset about it. For me, I try to ignore it as best as I possibly can and I try to focus on myself and what I’m doing. That’s when I feel a lot better.

I don’t have control over what people say, whether they say nice things, or they talk about you in a good way or a bad way. Just focus on what you’re doing. Make sure you’re doing things for the right reasons, whether you’re posting a photo, or you’re going out with people. Just make sure that whatever you’re doing is what makes you happy. It doesn’t matter what other people think, because you’re being you.

HC: As an Olympian, how often do you get to step out and relax and enjoy your social life?

Kenworthy: I feel very fortunate because I’m an Olympian in a sport that is a lot more about skill and technique. In other sports that are a lot more about endurance or strength, people are training constantly and they don’t ever go out and they’re on really crazy diets and they can’t drink at all and don’t have much time for a social life. I just feel lucky that my sport isn’t really like that. I mean, we compete all year round, but a lot of people I’m traveling with are my best friends in the world, from US and some other countries and we’ll go out for drinks, or go out for dinners and enjoy time after events and between contests.

When I’m not training, I’ll be in New York and I’ll be spending time with friends and stuff. So I think I actually enjoy a pretty good social life during the winter. It’s very regimented and I’m just with the people I’m competing with and during the summer I have more time to socialize.

HC: How many hours a day do you spend training?

Kenworthy: When I’m not on snow, I’m in the gym six days a week and it’s partly strength-focused and partly ski-specific stuff, explosive power things and things that are going to translate to take off on jumps and what-not and then injury prevention and rehabilitation and all of that. During the winter, I’d say I ski five days a week when I’m out of competition, just training. I usually ski the weekdays, take the weekends off. I’m on snow almost all day during those days. When I’m in competition season, it kind of just depends on my schedule. It’s usually just contest to contest to contest.

HC: What is it like doing all the incredible tricks? Do you get nervous?

Kenworthy: I don’t get nervous for the tricks as much anymore. I get nervous for competitions because I want to do well, because there’s a lot on the line in terms of Olympics and results and prize money and all these other things you have no control over. Those are things I get kind of nervous about, even though I have no control over them, so I really shouldn’t be nervous about them.

But the tricks, I’ve done them all for so long and if you really dumb them down, they’re all just an extension of a previous trick. So you start really low, with a really simple, modest move at a young age and then you learn more and more and more technical things and continue to develop. Even though a triple cork 1620 seems so out of reach for someone, it’s not if you’ve taken all those steps prior to that and done all the tricks that lead up to it. Then it’s kind of just an extension. So the tricks don’t make me as nervous as much as just competing and getting into the right head-space and landing a run and getting results, that kind of stuff.

HC: Tell me about your Samsung partnership. Why did you want to be a member of Team Galaxy?

Kenworthy: I’m really excited to work with Samsung. I just think they’re an incredible international brand and any company that’s partnering with the Olympics and pushing athletes and really making a difference in the Olympic space is a brand that I would want to work with. They push progression and innovation and inclusion through new products. Since everything I’m using on a day-to-day is Samsung, I just realized how important of a role they play in my training and my traveling—from booking my flights on the phone, or the tablet, to rewatching runs on my TV. Everything I use is Samsung. It’s kind of crazy, but it’s made my life easier and it helps with my training.

HC: What are your favorite apps and features to use on your Samsung Galaxy Note 8?

Kenworthy: Honestly, Instagram. Instagram is probably the app that I use the most. One of my favorite features on the phone is the S-Pen. I love to draw and I use it all the time to make fun of friends, like when I see someone’s Instagram and take a screenshot. Another thing I like about the phone is you can take a scrolling screenshot, so you can take a bigger screenshot than just what’s on your screen. And then I’ll like highlight stuff with my S-Pen and send it in group chats. Yesterday I used it to ask somebody a question, I screenshotted it and highlighted stuff. The S-Pen is probably the feature I use the most that I didn’t have before I had this phone.

HC: What are your top pump-up songs during a workout?

Kenworthy: The first three songs I listened to when I was at the gym yesterday were “New Rules” by Dua Lipa, “Cut to the Feeling” by Carly Rae Jepsen and “The Weekend” by SZA.

HC: Last, but most importantly. I heard you’re a pretty big fan of The Bachelor, so what are your thoughts on this upcoming season?
Kenworthy: I can’t wait. I love The Bachelor, that’s so funny that you pulled that out. I’m very excited. I live for it when it’s on and then I get even more excited because Bachelor in Paradise happens and that’s even better. I get pretty into it. When I get to see the contestants, I quickly choose favorites.

Basically, Kenworthy is one of the coolest, nicest guys I’ve ever talked to. We can’t wait to continue to watch him compete in the Pyeongchang Olympics. We know he’ll be fantastic!

You can keep up with Gus and follow even more 2018 Winter Olympics coverage from Her Campus via @HerCampus on Twitter.