Before his first slopestyle run on Sunday, Gus Kenworthy shared a kiss with his boyfriend on TV — a significant moment in a year when he is one of the first openly gay Americans competing in the Winter Olympics.
Kenworthy, who came out in 2015, has been vocal about what it means to him to be representing LGBT Americans at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Kenworthy’s boyfriend, Matthew Wilkas, brought a rainbow American flag to Kenworthy’s event on Sunday local time and wore a shirt that said USGAY. “I can’t really speak for Gus. I can only assume it’s monumental for him,” Wilkas told NBC after the kiss. “I think it’s overwhelming. I think he probably won’t be able to fully process it until later. This whole experience has been unexpectedly moving for him. I think he feels the pressure of it. The pressure of representing the community here and wanting do so well here for people who love him and also people who hate him and are wishing him to not do well just because of who he is. The pressure of that is intense for him.”
In a previous interview with NBC, Kenworthy said he reckoned with whether to come out in 2014 by kissing his then-boyfriend after a slopestyle run for which he earned a silver medal in Sochi, where anti-gay laws had sparked protests by gay rights advocates. But he decided he wasn’t ready yet.
“I think in a lot of ways, it would have been an amazing statement to make, but also I don’t know if I was totally ready at that point. I hadn’t told my mom, I hadn’t told my dad, I hadn’t told any of my friends. So it would have been a shock to the world, but it also would’ve been a shock to my inner circle,” he said. “I think it just wasn’t the right time for me, so I waited until it felt like it was.”
Kenworthy thanked Wilkas for his support in social media posts on Saturday, calling him “my Seoul mate.”
“He’s a little late for Valentine’s Day but he made it just in time to see me compete tomorrow (tonight for you guys in the states)!” Kenworthy wrote in an Instagram post. “Feeling very lucky to have him, my family, my agent and some amazing friends here in Korea cheering me on.”
“Win or lose I’m gonna be walking away with my head held high! Thank you all for your words of encouragement and support, I wouldn’t be here without you,” he added.
“So proud of this guy and everything he stands for,” Wilkas wrote in his own Instagram post. “Tomorrow is a big day for him here in pyeongchang. Send lots of love and nudes.”
Fans on social media reacted to the significance of the emotional moment.