Adam Rippon grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, being bullied and feeling out of place.
Now, Rippon is on his way to the Olympics as the first openly gay man chosen to represent the U.S. in the Winter Games. He is also the oldest debut figure skater since 1936.
Here & Now's Robin Young speaks with Rippon (@Adaripp) about his road to the upcoming games.
“I think that in figure skating and in sports in general that when you're young, it's considered a huge advantage because you're fearless, and you also don't have bad past experiences,” Rippon says. “But with age comes experience, and I have found that my experience is a huge advantage to me as a competitor.”
On barely qualifying for the Olympics after a difficult free skate
"When I got off the ice of my free program, I only could think about what I had done over the past few years. I qualified for two Grand Prix finals, I was a U.S. champion, and the whole season I had been skating very well and had really great scores.
"And I just had these demons from ... national championships because I failed to qualify in 2010, and then I failed to qualify again in 2014. And then in the free skate I just had this feeling like, ‘Oh my god, I'm going to mess up again, I'm going to mess up again.’ And I was very fortunate that the Olympic committee oversaw that last skate and I was still the second man added to the team."
On what skating meant for him after being bullied for his sexuality
"When I found skating, it was something that was individual, and it was something that I could focus on being my best. 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."
"I remember when I was young and didn't really know who I was, I would read about those coming out stories, and they made a world of difference to me."U.S. figure skater Adam Rippon
On how growing up and coming out made him a better skater
"I had to become a fully evolved person before I think I would be ready to go to the Olympic Games, and I got to a point where I was like, 'You know what, I need to kind of take on this responsibility.' And I was in my really early 20s, and I told my mom, I was like, ‘You know what, Mom? Uf I can't pay for this myself, I don't want to do it.’ And there were a lot of days where I was a member of a gym, and I just would have no money to my name that I would take all of the Granny Smith apples that they had in the locker room, and I'd be like, 'OK, this is lunch and dinner.'
"But it made me really strong, and from that strength I had, sort of — I think at the time it felt like I needed to have a little courage to come out and share my story because I remember when I was young and didn't really know who I was, I would read about those coming out stories, and they made a world of difference to me. And I said, ‘If I ever have the chance, I want to share my story as well.’ And when I did that, that's really kind of when my skating career really took off.
"I remember when I told my mom that I wanted to come out and my mom was a little hesitant. She was saying, ‘Are you sure? Do you think that might affect your scores?' or 'Is it something that you think that you need to do?' And I told her, ‘I don't care. It's important to me.’ Because at the same time, it gave my skating a greater purpose than it was just for me. And I just said, 'You know what, I'm at a point now where I'm doing well, and I want to show that you can be successful and an out athlete, and it really doesn't matter.' "
This article was originally published on January 17, 2018.
This segment aired on January 17, 2018.