Olympic skater Adam Rippon says he has remained “focused” on competing despite his ongoing feud with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence over the politician’s stance on gay rights. Rippon, who is openly gay, has previously criticized Pence’s views of same-sex Americans. Pence, meanwhile, is heading up the American delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics, being held in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Rippon, 28, who helped Team USA secure a bronze medal in team figure skating on Sunday, was asked in an interview with NBC’s Mike Tirico whether the headlines had proved a distraction.
“There have been a lot of stories written about [your sexuality] . . . including the Vice President’s involvement,” said Tirico said in his interview with Rippon. “Has it distracted you in any way?”
“You know, I’ve worked my entire life for this moment,” Rippon responded. “But more than that, my mom has always taught me to stand up what I believe in and that has given my skating a greater purpose. So I go out there and I’m not only representing myself, I’m representing my coaches, I’m representing my country and I’m representing my teammates.”
“So I remember that and that’s how I stay focused,” he added.
Rippon, who came out as gay in 2015, has previously criticized the decision to have Pence lead the American delegation to the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang. “You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?” he told USA Today. “I’m not buying it.”
His comments drew a swift rebuttal from Pence’s press team. Alyssa Farah, Pence’s press secretary, referred to Rippon’s statements as ”totally false,” without “basis in fact.”
Rippon responded on social media, tweeting a screenshot of Pence’s previous remarks on gay marriage.
“I personally have nothing to say to Mike Pence,” he added. “Given the chance to talk after the Olympics, I would want to bring with me people whose lives have been hurt by legislation he has championed.”