Adam Rippon and Representation at the Winter Olympics

The name Adam Rippon has become the central story at the 2018 Winter Olympics. The 28-year-old figure skater became the first openly gay athlete from the U.S. to win a medal at the Winter Games. Rippon delivered an incredible performance in the team event choreographed to Coldplay in his signature shimmering costume. Speaking about his bronze medal-winning routine Rippon told reporters, “It was worth the 28-year wait, you know?” 

Rippon first made headlines when he criticized the current Vice President, Mike Pence, on his stance on gay rights. In an interview with USA Today in January, Rippon called out the White House for choosing Pence to lead the official U.S. delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympic opening ceremony, telling reporters "You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?" A spokesperson for the Vice President denied the remarks made by Rippon. Pence’s stance on gay rights has been documented in the legislation he supports. In 2015, as governor of Indiana, he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which "allowed business to turn away gay and lesbian customers in the name of religious freedom.” Rippon and U.S. skier Gus Kenworthy are the first two openly gay Winter Olympic athletes representing Team USA. Both have said that they would skip visiting the White House when the President invites Team USA after the end of the Olympics. 

Along with Rippon and Kenworthy, U.S. speed skater and former world champion Brittany Bowe is the only out woman competing for team USA at the Winter Games. The importance of these historical milestones cannot be overlooked. When these are some of the first out athletes to compete, it is clear that the lack of representation is abundant. Seeing these athletes break down boundaries and work hard to achieve their dreams can have a life saving impact on young gay kids who cannot envision success in their lives. Rippon’s agent, David Baden, spoke to USA Today about an email he received that stood out to him. It was from a young gay man from the Midwest, who said his family did not support him but that seeing Rippon gave him hope. Rippon responded to the letter saying that going to the Olympics and being able to share his truth has “given my skating a greater purpose.”

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