Out freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy clinched his spot on the U.S. Olympic Team Sunday, guaranteeing that an openly gay man will compete in an action sports event at the Winter Olympics for the first time in history.
Kenworthy ensured his place on the Olympic team with a second-place finish in the Men’s Freeski Slopestyle Finals at Mammoth Mountain in California. The podium finish came a day before the U.S. names its Olympic freeski team. Team USA can send four athletes to PyeongChang, South Korea, to compete in slopestyle, and Kenworthy is one of just two American skiers to meet the objective criteria of two podium finishes to automatically nab one of the spots; he won the Slopestyle Finals last week at Snowmass in Colorado.
It’s been a week of major publicity for Kenworthy, who appeared on an episode of Top Chef and in a Head & Shoulders ad waving a rainbow flag.
At Mammoth, Kenworthy led the field after the first run of finals with a score of 94.8, which would ultimately be his best run of the day. Canadian Evan McEachran posted a better score of 96.4 on his second run and won the event, but Kenworthy came in ahead of fellow American Nick Goepper, the only other skier to clinch a slopestyle spot on the U.S. Olympic team.
Kenworthy this year hopes to make the Olympic team in two events, but he hasn’t performed as well in halfpipe competitions. Whether he nabs one of the four spots on the freeski halfpipe team will be up to the coach's discretion. He’s currently the fifth-ranked American in International Ski Federation rankings.
Kenworthy won a silver medal in slopestyle at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, as part of an American sweep of the event, but he was not out at the time. He came out to ESPN the Magazine in 2015.
This year, Kenworthy has been among the most high-profile Olympic prospects for Team USA. He is the second out athlete to guarantee a spot on Team USA this year, after figure skater Adam Rippon. Gay Canadian figure skater Eric Radford and bisexual Dutch speed skater Ireen Wust have made their nations' teams. The 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang begin February 9.
Kenworthy tweeted his joy at making the team:
I'M GOING BACK TO THE OLYMPICS!!! pic.twitter.com/8Ys5p0PjOd
— Gus Kenworthy (@guskenworthy) January 22, 2018