Freeskier Gus Kenworthy popped by “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” on Monday to discuss ― among other things ― making history with figure skater Adam Rippon as the first two openly gay men to compete for the U.S. in the Winter Olympics.
Kenworthy, who secured a spot on the men’s Olympic slopestyle team in January, told DeGeneres that he was “excited to soak up” the experience at the Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, later this month. While he previously competed at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia, and brought home a silver medal, this will be his first time at the Olympics as an openly gay man.
“It’s going to be a different experience than last time around because I’m not in the closet,” Kenworthy said (see video above). “I just want to meet as many athletes as I can, get to enjoy the opening and closing ceremonies, [and] hopefully ski the best I possibly can.”
He also doubled down on sentiments expressed last month by Rippon, who suggested that Vice President Mike Pence’s opposition to LGBTQ rights made him ill-suited to lead the U.S. delegation to the Olympics.
Pence was “a strange choice” for the job, Kenworthy said.
“To have somebody leading the delegation that [has] directly attacked the LGBTQ community … just seems like a bad fit,” he told DeGeneres. “I feel like the Olympics is all about inclusion and people coming together, and it seems like it’s not really doing that.”
Later in the interview, DeGeneres asked Kenworthy about the experience of posing au naturel for ESPN’s 2017 Body Issue, as well as his Head & Shoulders campaign, which broke fresh ground as the first nationally televised commercial to feature a rainbow flag.
“When I was in the closet, I had so much pressure on my shoulders,” he said of the inspiration behind the ad. “When I came out, that was actually the first moment I felt relieved of those stresses. It really showed in my skiing.”