In 2014, Gus Kenworthy won a silver medal competing for the United States at the Sochi Olympics. In 2018, he was among the most visible and outspoken of the American Olympians at the PyeongChang Games. And in 2022, Kenworthy will take aim at a third Olympics with plans to compete under a new flag and for a new country.
Kenworthy, 28, was given formal approval Tuesday from the International Ski Federation to join GB Snowsport and begin competing under the Great Britain banner.
The high-profile freestyle skier was born in Chelmsford, Essex, to a British-born mother and holds a United Kingdom passport, thus qualifying him for the switch in the middle of his competitive career.
“I have strong roots in the UK and have been close with many of the athletes. For me, this is an incredible opportunity to join a first-class team and I believe we will be able to deliver great results,” Kenworthy said in a statement. “I am also doing this for my mother who was born and lived in the UK for much of her life, she has always been my greatest supporter throughout my career. She taught me to ski when I was three years old and is the reason I compete today. It’s great to now be representing GB - a country which means so much to me and my family.”
Kenworthy requested and was granted his release from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard team, which cleared the way for him to switch competitive alliances. Kenworthy is a freestyle skier who won silver at the slopestyle competition in Sochi.
He generated even more buzz when he adopted stray dogs during his Russia visit. In the years that followed, Kenworthy came out as gay and garnered even more attention for his willingness to discuss a wide range of social issues, such as gun control, politics and issues important to the LGBTQ community. He was also openly critical of the Trump administration and Vice President Mike Pence in the months leading up to the 2018 Olympics.
“I don’t think I’m competing for the administration. I think I’m competing for our country,” he said that year. “I love our country. I love that our country is one where you have the freedom to protest and to stand up for what you believe in and speak on it.”
Kenworthy said he hopes to take aim at three events at the 2022 Games: slopestyle, halfpipe and the inaugural big air competition. He attempted to compete in two events in PyeongChang, but missed out on qualifying for the halfpipe and then finished 12th in slopestyle in PyeongChang.
He told NBC Sports on Tuesday that he thinks competing for the Great Britain team will make it easier for him to qualify for the Beijing Games.
“This gives me an advantage in terms of qualifying and having less to worry about, less people I’m up against, just being able to focus on the tricks that I want to be working on, the runs that I want to do, put me in the best position to hopefully get another medal and not have to kill my body trying to qualify in multiple disciplines right before the Games against the U.S. guys,” he said.
The United States has won a total of 25 freestyle skiing Olympic medals since the sport was added to the Winter Games slate in 1992. Great Britain has one.
Said Vicky Gosling, the chief executive of GB Snowsport: “When a world-renowned athlete like Gus makes himself available to compete for GB Snowsport it is really exciting, but we wanted assurances around Gus’ desire as his life outside snowsport has become much busier. We have met with Gus numerous times and found that we are completely on the same page.”