By Maya Schenne
Before the 2018 Winter Olympics, Adam Rippon was floundering. “Six years ago, I had no money to my name. I was living in my coach’s basement. I just leased a car, and I got a letter in the mail saying that my credit was so bad that they needed to take the car back. My coach co-signed on the lease so that I could keep the car and he said: ‘I trust you. And I trust that you’re going to work hard.'” Rippon did work hard, earning him a spot on the U.S. Winter Olympic team. It wasn’t easy, though. But why is everyone talking about him? It may be because he is the first openly gay U.S. Winter Olympic athlete.
Adam Rippon was born on November 11, 1989, in Scranton, Pennsylvania. His full name is Adam Richard Rippon, and he is the oldest of six siblings. From an early age, he had many health issues, including an eye infection, 80% hearing loss, a severe respiratory condition, and a burst appendix before he was five years old. This was just the start of the long path ahead of him.
Rippon started figure skating when he was really young since his mother was a dancing and skating enthusiast. He won the 2007 Junior Grand Prix Final and continued on to become the first male to win back-to-back World Junior Titles in 2008 and 2009. He won a silver medal at the 2012 Nationals and entered the 2014 Nationals to try to qualify for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Unfortunately, Rippon placed eighth, not qualifying for the team. However, he came back with several strong performances, reclaiming his title. He was chosen to represent the United States at the 2018 Winter Olympics, along with Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou. He is 28 years old, the oldest to make a debut in men’s singles since the 1936 Winter Olympics.
It wasn’t easy getting to the Olympics, though. There was a huge controversy over whether or not to accept him because of his sexual orientation. Mostly, it was between Vice President Mike Pence and Adam Rippon. When asked what he thought about Pence leading the U.S. delegation to South Korea, Rippon stated, “You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy? I’m not buying it.” When Pence asked to meet with Rippon, he refused. He later explained, “I talked to you about how I felt before the Games (and) it’s brought a lot of attention and questions to my other teammates. I don’t want to distract from their Olympic experience, and I don’t want my Olympic experience to be about Mike Pence.”
To many people, Rippon is a role model and a hero. He was a representative of those who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. “I didn’t speak up for myself, I spoke up because it’s important to give a voice to those who feel they don’t have one,” Rippon said. When he was asked what it’s like to be a gay athlete, Rippon responded, “It’s exactly like being a straight athlete. Lots of hard work but usually done with better eyebrows.” Rippon won a bronze medal, putting the United States on the podium.
Rippon soon became a crowd favorite. TIME magazine says he was “loved especially for the artistic beauty of his routine, his honesty, and hilarious tweets.” According to NBC: “Breakout star Adam Rippon is hysterical, the U.S. learned during these 2018 Winter Olympics…From all of his best one-liners to fashion advice, to healing crystals, eating In-N-Out on rooftops and Xanax.” His Twitter posts also have people talking. Buzzfeed describes him as “hands down one of the funniest people to follow on Twitter.”
His confidence is inspiring. One example of this is when Rippon said, “I’m a hot mess all the time. I usually finish things in the last second. But I think, as I’ve gotten older, I don’t worry about it, and I just rock it. If I forgot to put something on and I have to wear a trash bag, I’m just like, I’m gonna rock a trash bag today.” If we can learn anything from Rippon, it’s that we can achieve our goals if we work hard and don’t let anything, or anyone, tell us that it’s impossible.