For the first time, an out man will represent the United States in men's singles this year as part of the U.S. Olympic Figure Skating Team. U.S. Figure Skating on Sunday announced Adam Rippon, the 2016 U.S. Champion, as one of three athletes competing in men's singles in PyeongChang.
"I am so excited to be on this Olympic team," Rippon said in a statement to The Advocate. "I have always tried to be my authentic self and sharing my story has always been really important. I can't wait to represent my country and the LGBT community at the Olympics in Korea."
While numerous Olympic figure skaters have come out after retiring from competition, Rippon will be the first to compete for America while publicly out. The decision for Rippon to be on the team, though, became controversial after a disappointing showing by Rippon at the 2018 National Figure Skating Championships. After a second-place showing in the short program, Rippon did not do as well in the free skate on Saturday, falling early on a quadruple triple lutz and then popping two jumps at the end of the routine. Ultimately, he ended up fourth place overall, leading to "fierce debate" among the Olympic selection committee whether Rippon should make the team, according to icenetwork.com.
The other selections for the American team include Nathan Chen, who won the U.S. title in 2018 and 2017, and Vincent Zhou, who came in third at nationals. Ross Miner, who finished second at nationals, was named as second alternate. Jason Brown was named first alternate and Max Aaron was named third alternate.
"I am heartbroken that Ross Miner was not named," wrote former Olympian Johnny Weir about the decision on Twitter, "however I trust Adam will be exemplary in his preparation and inspire many with his performances at Olympics."
Rippon did not compete for the U.S. title in 2017 thanks to an injury, but has had a strong season this year. Rippon had hoped to make the Olympic teams in both 2010 and 2014 but finished fifth and eighth at nationals respectively those years and failed to make the team.
Rippon publicly came out to Skating magazine in 2015. He said then: "I feel so overwhelmed that U.S. Figure Skating wants to be a part of me. It's a huge thing to have your sport's governing body be a part of that and to show all their athletes that they accept them for who they are and for their individual personalities. When you go out and compete, you want to represent [the organization] to the best of your ability, and you want to represent your true, authentic self. When you're honest with yourself, you can do that. I want to be a relatable example."
Rippon is also training partners with Ashley Wagner, who similarly finished fourth at Nationals after a disappointing performance. But Wagner, in a decision that surprised many, was not selected for the U.S. team this year.
The U.S. has been represented by gay skaters before, but none who were out when they competed at the Olympics. Brian Boitano won gold at the 1988 Olympics, and came out in 2014 after being named to a U.S. delegation to Sochi. Weir competed at the games in 2006 and 2010, and came out in his book Welcome to My Worldin 2011.