Freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy has made the decision to represent Great Britain Snowsport instead of the United States ahead of the 2022 Olympics.
After competing at two Olympics for the USA, Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018, winning a silver medal in Slopestyle in 2014, Kenworthy’s application to switch allegiances to GB Snowsport was approved on Tuesday by the International Ski Federation.
Kenworthy was born in Chelmsford but moved to Colorado at the age of three and has decided to represent his mother’s native country for what he expects to be his final games.
The 28-year-old told the PA news agency: “I think this is going to be my last Games, kind of like my swansong, and I just wanted to do it for my mum.
“She’s been my number one support for all these years. She’s really the reason that I fell in love with the sport and she’s been in my corner the whole time so I just wanted to do it for her – and she’s British.”
After coming out publicly in 2015, Kenworthy was one of just two openly gay men out of 134 representing the United States in PyeongChang, and he believes representing Great Britain in 2022 would be the third flag of his career.
Speaking about the previous Winter Olympics, he continued: “For me, 2018 was actually less about representing the US as much as it was representing the LGBT community and it was the first time that the US had two openly gay men competing – Adam Ripon and I were those two guys.
“So I was obviously competing for the US and felt that sense of national pride but I felt that more so than the American flag, I was kind of skiing for the rainbow flag.
“This time around I feel like it’s my last games and I want to do it for my Mum, so in a way I feel like I’ve represented three different flags at three different games.”
Kenworthy said he watched videos of celebrities coming out, including British athlete Tom Daley, and added: “Whether it’s for GB or the US or anything I feel quite proud to just be a gay athlete and for any other gay athletes I think it’s important to stand up because we’re pretty under-represented and it does a lot.”
The US routinely has one of the largest teams for the winter Olympics, with numerous qualifying tournaments to secure one of the four slots allotted for each sport, and Kenworthy is looking forward to a different approach leading up to 2022 with GB Snowsport.
When asked about what the difference would be in the Olympic cycle, he added: “I can work on tricks and a run that I think will do the best for me in Beijing and suit me best when I get there but I’m not vying for those spots against a ton of other people.
“I can just focus and train and go to the certain World Cups and qualifying events that I need to and otherwise I can save some energy and train smarter and I want to compete in all three disciplines. It just gives me the opportunity to do that.
“It’s also just going to translate into me just having a more fun experience and the reason that I fell in love with the sport in the first place is just because it’s so fun, exciting and creative and as a kid it’s all I wanted to do.”