Everything You Need to Know About U.S. Olympic Figure Skater Adam Rippon
Figure Skater Adam Rippon, who'll be representing the United States in PyeongChang, has already made big headlines this year -- well before even stepping onto the Olympics ice. In early January, he became the first openly gay American to qualify for the Winter Olympics. Then, he got into a public spat with Vice President Mike Pence, after criticizing the decision to have the VP lead the US delegation to the Games.
You'll probably be hearing a lot more about him in the coming days and weeks, so here's what else you should know about the 28-year-old, barrier-breaking champ from Scranton, Pennsylvania.
He's the oldest American figure skater to be competing in the Olympics in nearly a centuryAt age 28, Rippon will be the oldest figure skater to compete as a "rookie" in the Olympics in 82 years. That may sound crazy, but it's true -- he's nearly a decade older than fellow figure skating teammates Vincent Zhou and Nathan Chen. However, he owes getting a spot on the Olympic team this year to the fact that he's had a longer career than most. According to the Washington Post, it was his more impressive international track record that convinced the selection committee to place him on the team over some younger competitors whose performances have been arguably as strong as his this year.
He got into figure skating relatively lateBy most measures, kids in fourth grade are still very young, but in figure skating, that's considered a late start. Nonetheless, age 10 is when Rippon got into it, after his mom -- a skater herself -- introduced him to it. At first he didn't love the sport, but eventually found himself obsessed (and very good at it).
He struggled with bullying as a child and teen, and came out as gay in 2015Rippon has been quite open in interviews about the bullying he faced growing up in rural Pennsylvania, and how he attempted to change his mannerisms in an effort to get other kids to stop picking on him for acting gay. He's described skating as his refuge.
"When I found skating, it was something that was individual, and it was something that I could focus on being my best," he recently told the show Here and Now. "And I loved the whole practice and I also loved performing. It was probably the first time I felt really good about myself and that I was good at something, because I always liked being athletic. I enjoyed playing the other sports. I just sucked at them."
In 2015, Rippon chose to come out publicly in an interview with Skate magazine.
"For a really long time I'd look in the mirror and I wouldn't know who was looking back at me and I wouldn't really like who was looking back at me, and it took me a really long time to own who I was," he said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "And when I was able to own who I was, that's when I had my most success."
A year later, he won the 2016 US Championship.
He has some very strong feelings about Mike Pence's role at PyeongChangIn an interview with USA Today shortly after being selected to represent Team USA in PyeongChang, Rippon made it quite clear that he doesn't agree with the decision for Vice President Pence to lead the delegation. Specifically, he called out many of the anti-gay positions the former governor of Indiana has taken publicly, from his support for conversion therapy to his stated opposition to same-sex marriage. In response, the VP's press secretary released a statement claiming Rippon's accusations were "totally false." However, a cursory Google search suggests that in fact, they are very much true. The social media spat has placed him in the public eye for reasons he may not have planned, but Rippon remains unfazed.
“To have the press secretary of the vice president call me out and try to call me a liar was a little bit shocking,” he told the Advocate in an interview. “That wasn’t something I was expecting, but I was prepared.”