By Ian Ransom
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – Four years after being too scared to make a public display of affection at Sochi, American freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy kissed his boyfriend at the Pyeongchang Olympics on Sunday and was thrilled it was broadcast to the world.
The silver medalist at Sochi, an injury-hampered Kenworthy finished last of 12 in the final of the slopestyle event at Phoenix Snow Park but broke some barriers with his shared moment with boyfriend Matthew Wilkas before qualifying.
“I didn’t even know that that was a televised moment at all,” the 26-year-old, one of few openly gay Olympians, told reporters.
“But I think that’s amazing, that’s something that I wanted at the last Olympics was to share a kiss with my boyfriend at the bottom but I was too scared to do it for myself.
“So to be able to do that to give him a kiss, to have that affection broadcast for the world is incredible.
“I think it’s the only way to change perceptions, break down homophobia, break down barriers is through representation and 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 if I had it would have made it a lot easier for me.”
An outspoken LGBTQ advocate, British-born Kenworthy has had an eventful Games. After breaking his thumb three days ago, he quipped on Twitter that at least it would “prevent (him) from shaking (Mike) Pence’s hand.”
Kenworthy has been critical of the U.S. Vice President Pence, who is often to the right of mainstream America on gay rights and other social issues.
Apart from the thumb, Kenworthy had to have a hematoma drained from his hip two days ago and wondered whether he would even be fit for Sunday’s event.
“I wasn’t even sure how this was going to go today. And I’m happy in spite of all that,” said Kenworthy, who struggled with his routines and gave a shrug after skiing down the slope at the end of his final run.
It was a better day for team mate American Nick Goepper, who grabbed the silver behind Norwegian gold medalist Oystein Braaten, four years after winning the bronze at Sochi.
Canada’s Alex Beaulieu-Marchand took the bronze.
Despite the injuries and his disappointment on Sunday, Kenworthy was thrilled to have competed as an openly gay athlete, four years after keeping his personal life private in Sochi.
“Absolutely, it feels incredible to be at this Olympics and just getting to be out and be myself feels so great,” he said.
“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 and 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.”
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)