Welcome to the Adam Rippon show. Nice to see on the ice, he made sense to the post-show interviews and he talks directly. Even if he is in a quarell with Mike Pence, the American vice-president. Because Rippon was the first athlete declared to be gay to have qualified for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games 2018, in South Korea, and because he is the first historic star and stripe sportsman officially homosexual to win a medal, the bronze medal won by the US in the Team Event.
American and gay, like compatriot freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy, who qualified two weeks after him, but who had already been at the Olympics in 2014 in Sochi, winning a silver medal. Both, however, came out in October 2015 and, now, three years later, they openly say it: it was the most liberating act of their existence. Rippon nods: «From the moment everyone knew, I began to breathe freely».
Someone also points out that at 28, after two failed qualifications in Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2010, he is the oldest skater to debut in the history of America since 1936. Nathan Chen, to be clear, his colleague and compatriot, is 1999. But the astute wisdom of Adam is all here: «In the past this thing might have discouraged me, but it really motivated me because it’s different and I love being different».
Then he lets himself go on the ice and in spite of the debutante’s label he has more or less surprised everyone. He dazzled the ice, earning the score of 172.98 in the men’s individual test which initially led him to second place before going down to third position. Johnny Weir, former Olympian and commentator for the American channel NBC called it “magnificent”, “spell-binding” finding approval also in former skater Tara Lipinsky who admitted to have had the chills.
And then Rippon knows how to be bold and sincere even far from the track, conveying a genuine empathy even when journalists ask ritual questions and a bit banal. He remembers the disappointment, four years ago, when he failed to qualify, he was with his friend and colleague, Mirai Nagasu, and gulped down burgers due to desperation. Now they’re both in the limelight of the world, to pull the tweaks for how fantastic and almost unimaginable: «M y friend Mirai and I…four years ago, we got In-N-Out, we went back to her house, we climbed up to the roof of her house, and we were eating In-N-Out because we were so upset that we weren’t at the Olympic Games. And tonight, you know, the Olympics are truly magical, because we came out here tonight, and—we’re roommates here, staying at the Olympic Village—we gave each other a hug, and I said, “You know, Mirai, we’re here! We did it!” And we both went out there and we both had these great skates today. To do that for our team is just, like—it’s so amazing».
Adam has accomplished many liberating gestures. The last is a slap against the US institution. Mike Pence is the head of the US delegation in South Korea, he is the vice president of Trump in the White House and is accused of anti-gay positions, of having hindered the LGBT community and of supporting the validity of recovery therapy for homosexuals. Rippon refused to meet him and said he would not change his way to greet a man who fought to support the theory gays are sick. And if Pence wrote a personal tweet addressed to the skater, saying not to believe in fake news, Rippon proves to be a winner even away from the ice, skating over (litteraly) and demonstrating a lot, a lot of self-irony: «A gay athlete has nothing different from a heterosexual athlete. Passion, dedication, sacrifice and training are exactly the same. All the same, except that we have the most beautiful eyebrows. ”
In short, the curtain on the Rippon’s show has just risen.