Neither out athlete representing Team USA at the Winter Olympics is happy about Vice President Mike Pence leading the U.S. Olympic delegation to PyeongChang. Freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy, who last week clinched his spot on the Olympic team, told USA Today he doesn't agree with the homophobic politician representing the nation at the games.
"It's not the person I would have expected," he said, "and I think it sends mixed messages because this is the first time we're seeing out U.S. Olympic athletes competing in the Winter Olympics, and then we have someone leading the delegation that doesn't support that, and doesn't support the LGBT community, and has spoken against it. I think it doesn't send the right message. It's unfortunate, but it is what it is."
Kenworthy won a silver medal in Slopestyle at the Sochi Olympics in 2014 and came out publicly as gay in 2015. He is again competing in Slopestyle at PyeongChang games, which begin February 9.
Kenworthy said he first learned Pence would lead the delegation when fellow Olympian Adam Rippon, part of the figure skating team, criticized the decision. "You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy? I'm not buying it," Rippon told USA Today. Rippon's comments drew a rebuke from Pence press secretary Alyssa Farah, but Rippon told The Advocate this week he stands by his statement. "They aren't false allegations. They are true facts and statements you can find on an archived website of his."
Kenworthy and Rippon are the first out athletes to represent the United States at a Winter Olympics. Along with Canada's Eric Radford, they will also be among the first out gay men to represent any nation at a Winter Olympics.