Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy came out of the closet in 2015 — and he stepped into his best year as a champion then. Unsurprisingly, he is this year's recipient of the Point Foundation's prestigious Point Leadership Award for achieving prominence in his professional career as a vocal member and supporter of the LGBTQ community. His acceptance speech was packed full of inspiration and advice for young people facing the same issues he did growing up.
"I wish that I had the courage to be myself when I was in high school," he said. "I wish that I had been comfortable enough in my own skin to acknowledge who I was and to share that person with the world. It took me many years to get to that point.
The adolescent years of a queer person’s life are not easy. They involve a great deal of stress and anxiety. We often face ridicule and we fear torment. My time spent in the closet is a blur of depression and anxiety. Well, not everything was bad during those years. I turned professional in my sport, I graduated from high school, made my first Olympic team, and won my first Olympic medal."
But something was in the way of him appreciating his achievements.
"I can honestly say that I didn’t enjoy those moments to the fullest because I truly wasn’t present for them," he continued. "I didn’t really feel the gravity of that moment because I was so distracted trying to keep up a facade, trying to make the world believe that I was just someone that I was not. I worked twice as hard at everything I did to make up for the fact that I was gay, something I thought was a shortcoming at time.
And while it instilled a great work ethic in me, it also drained me physically and emotionally. The ski season after I came out, although it wasn’t an Olympic year, was my best season to date. I felt like I had the weight of the world off my shoulders. I was finally free from the shackles of my own mind."
He became the first to win all three disciplines of his sport in the X-Games that year, something no athlete had done before.
"I hadn’t changed my training regimen, though. I hadn’t taken a different approach to my runs. I hadn’t done anything, except for the fact that I was finally competing as myself. I was no longer hiding a part of my life, putting it in a box, pushing it to the back of my mind to be dealt with after skiing, after competing, when I was certain I was alone. I was just being me.
And that little extra bit of energy that I previously spent worrying, stressing, compartmentalizing, that extra little bit was my ticket to success. And so if I can give the young people in this room any piece of advice, it would be to just continue being yourselves."
At the event, he told Page Six how scary it was to come out.
“I have likened it to the Chokey in ‘Matilda,’” he said. “It’s basically [like] there is a chamber and there are spikes and it is terrifying, but it’s only kind of in your own mind, and the only thing that is holding you in there is yourself.”
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