Who Is Adam Rippon?
Born in Pennsylvania in 1989, Adam Rippon displayed immense early promise as a figure skater with back-to-back wins at the world junior championships. He missed out on berths with the U.S. teams for the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics, but regained his standing in the sport with a win at the 2016 U.S. national championships. In 2018, Rippon became the first openly gay American man to qualify for the Winter Olympics.
With his selection to the U.S. Olympic men's figure skating team in January 2018, Adam Rippon, who revealed his sexuality in the October 2015 issue of Skating, became the first openly gay American athlete to qualify for the Winter Olympics.
Rippon was not the only acknowledged gay athlete at the PyeongChang Games; he was joined on the U.S. squad by celebrated skier Gus Kenworthy, though Kenworthy's sexuality was still a secret when he won his silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Games. Additionally, skating analyst Johnny Weir was rumored to be gay during his days as an active competitor, though he remained tight-lipped on the subject under the spotlight of the 2006 and 2010 Games.
2018 Olympic Performance
Rippon made additional history with his Olympic debut in February 2018, becoming the oldest first-time Olympian to represent the U.S. in figure skating since George Hill in 1936.
Competing in the men's free skate, Rippon delivered a flawless performance choreographed to Coldplay's "O" and the Cinematic Orchestra's "Arrival of the Birds," the latter chosen to represent his recent comeback from a fractured ankle. Although his fans questioned why he only placed third in the event—behind two other skaters who fell while attempting difficult moves—his performance was still good enough help the U.S. win the bronze medal in the team event.
Later, Rippon again dazzled the crowd with his clean performances in the short and long programs of the individual men's skate. While the lack of quad jumps in his repertoire made him a long shot to medal, he still finished in a respectable 10th place, while emerging as one of the fan favorites of the Games.
Rippon on Instagram and Twitter
Rippon found his social media fan base growing as his profile increased in the days leading up to the Olympics. Never shy about flaunting his physique, he has used Instagram to post shirtless pics, along with those featuring him posing with U.S. teammates.
Twitter, on the other hand, has provided a forum for the skater to show off his sharp sense of humor, whether it's playful banter with the likes of Reese Witherspoon or poking fun at himself for using teeth whiteners. He's also used the platform to address the haters in his own distinct way. Following his Olympic debut, he wrote: "To all those who tweet at me saying that they 'hope I fail', I have failed many times many times in my life. But more importantly, I've learned from every setback, proudly own up to my mistakes, grown from disappointments, and now I'm a glamazon bitch ready for the runway."
Clash With Mike Pence
The public got its first taste of Rippon's outspokenness in mid-January 2018, when he was asked by USA Today to comment on the selection of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence as head of the 2018 U.S. Olympic delegation to South Korea. "You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy? I’m not buying it," said the skater.
Rippon was referring to a Pence campaign website from 2000 which said that resources should be "directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior." The VP's office insisted that the passage was referring to the practice of safe sex, and Pence sought to play down the controversy by tweeting his support of Rippon. He also reportedly attempted to meet with the skater, though he denied doing so after Rippon rebuffed the offer.
Rippon later said that he didn't want his "Olympic experience being about Mike Pence" and said he would consider meeting with the VP at another time. However, he also fanned the political flames by saying he wouldn't join the rest of the U.S. team for its traditional visit the White House to meet President Donald Trump at the conclusion of the Games.
Childhood and Intro to Skating
Adam Rippon was born on November 11, 1989, in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Discovered to be nearly deaf, he underwent corrective ear surgery before his first birthday.
The oldest of six children, Rippon was raised in the blue-collar town of Clarks Summit, an environment not always welcoming to a boy coming to grips with his homosexuality. His mom, Kelly, a former dancer and skating enthusiast, tried to coax him onto the ice; initially resistant, he changed his mind after joining friends for an ice-skating themed birthday party.
Within months, Kelly was making the two-hour-plus trip to Philadelphia twice per week for her oldest son's lessons. At age 11, Rippon was chosen to portray a young Scott Hamilton in a Stars on Ice revue, his first exposure to the experience of skating before an appreciative crowd.
Rippon's career got off to a very promising start when he won the 2007 junior Grand Prix Final title, and followed by becoming the first male to win back-to-back world junior titles, in 2008 and 2009. He hoped to leverage that momentum into a spot on the U.S. team for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but ended up being selected as an alternate.
A silver medalist at the 2012 nationals, Rippon moved to Los Angeles that year to begin training with noted coach Rafael Arutunian. However, he suffered one of the biggest setbacks of his career with an eighth-place finish at the 2014 nationals, dashing any hopes of consideration for the Sochi Games. Despondent, Rippon considered quitting skating, before rekindling his love for the sport by choreographing routines for fellow skaters Ashley Wagner and Mirai Nagasu.
Rippon bounced back to grab another silver at the 2015 nationals, before winning his first U.S. title in 2016. A fractured foot prevented him from defending his title in 2017, but he returned later in the year to earn silver in both of his Grand Prix events.
At the 2018 nationals, Rippon fell on his opening jump of the long program and finished in fourth place. However, he was given credit for his overall body of work for the season and chosen for one of the three spots on the U.S. men's team, alongside Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou, giving him his long-awaited Olympic opportunity.
Family and Personal
Rippon's parents divorced when he was 13, and he has noted that he is not close with his father. Despite his move to Los Angeles years ago, he remains tight with the rest of his family, most of whom had gone on to undergraduate and graduate studies by the time big brother was chosen to represent Team USA in the Olympics. To foster continued communication, the family regularly partakes in book club discussions.
Rippon's outspokenness isn't limited to his Twitter ruminations. Leading up to the 2018 Winter Games, he opened up to The New York Times about the little-discussed body issue problems plaguing his sport, revealing that for many years he was pressured to drop weight from his already lithe frame, before adapting healthier eating habits.
The skater has also willingly shared stories about the tough moments of his journey, recalling the days when he had no money and subsisted on free apples from his gym. He's also enjoyed sharing the tale of his and Nagasu's shared misery over missing out on the 2014 Olympics, leading to them gorging on In-N-Out burgers as they sat on her roof, questioning their futures.
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