Skier Gus Kenworthy, one of the first two openly gay male athletes to represent the U.S. in the Winter Olympics, announced on Tuesday that he would switch allegiance and joined Great Britain’s team.
Kenworthy competed at the 2014 Sochi and 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard team but has requested his release from the group in order to compete for GB Snowsport with the hopes of making the nation’s team for the Beijing 2022 games.
“This is a great opportunity for me to start again and compete in three events in 2022,” Kenworthy said in a statement. “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.”
The 28-year-old, who made an acting debut in “American Horror Story: 1984,” was born in Chelmsford, Essex, and moved to the United States as a child.
His mother was born in the United Kingdom and Kenworthy said the allegiance switch is to honor “my greatest supporter through my career.”
“She taught me to ski when I was three years old and is the reason I compete today,” Kenworthy said. “It’s great to now be representing GB – a country which means so much to me and my family.”
Kenworthy was a silver medalist in the 2014 Winter Olympics but was not yet openly gay at the time.
He made headlines during the 2018 games in South Korea by being a vocal critic of President Trump and the administration’s stance on LGBTQ rights, citing actions such as the transgender military service ban.
He said Vice President Pence was a “bad fit” to lead the U.S. delegation to Pyeongchang.
“To have somebody leading the delegation that’s directly attacked the LGBTQ community, and a Cabinet in general that just sort of stands against us and has tried to do things to set us back, it just seems like a bad fit,” Kenworthy said.
He told Sky Sports that he hoped to inspire other LGBTQ athletes.
“I definitely think that the biggest thing I can do for the younger generation is be a visible representative, especially for any young LGBT kids in the sport,” the skier said. “I am gay and it does a lot, having someone that you can identify with. When I was growing up, there weren’t any gay skiers that I looked up to, so I hope to be that.”