Freestyle skier and actor Gus Kenworthy is officially heading to Beijing to compete in the 2022 Olympic Winter Games for team Great Britain. He’ll be vying for the gold in the men’s freestyle halfpipe event.
This event will mark Kenworthy’s third time competing in the Winter Games; however, in 2014 and 2018 he was representing Team USA. The skier first announced the change in teams in 2019 as a way to honor his mother (Kenworthy was born in Essex, England, to an English mother and an American father).
“Although I was raised in the US I was born in the UK and my mum is British through-and-through. She has been my #1 fan for my entire life and has proudly stood at the bottom of the mountain waving the stars and stripes in support of me for two Olympic cycles,” he wrote on Instagram at the time, adding that these Games would likely mark his retirement as well. “Now, in what is sure to be my last Olympic appearance, I’d like to return the honour by proudly holding up the British flag for her.”
Kenworthy will be joining a “record number” of out LGBTQ+ athletes at the Beijing Games. According to Outsports, 15 publicly out LGBTQ+ competed in the 2018 Games, and this year there will be “more than that” representing their respective countries in the events.
Kenworthy, however, almost wasn’t one of them, having nearly been forced out of the Games after suffering an injury in training. “Six weeks ago I got a pretty bad concussion while at a training camp in Switzerland,” he shared on Instagram. “Because I’ve had a few serious TBI’s (traumatic brain injuries) in recent years the seriousness of each added concussion has been stressed to me. I took two full weeks off and followed all of the SafeSport steps to return to snow.”
The athlete’s return to the slope was cut short again when he began to feel ill just two days later.
“I started feeling really sick: fever, chills, etc. I took a COVID test and to my surprise it was positive,” he revealed. “Despite being fully vaccinated I had caught a breakthrough case.”
After a 10-day quarantine and a negative test result he returned home, but lingering symptoms persisted, raising serious questions about his ability to participate in the Games. Fortunately, Kenworthy has since returned to better health and is ready to go for the gold when the Olympic Winter Games kick off February 4.