Five-ring Circus

Gus Kenworthy Spent the Last Olympics Closeted. This Time He Kissed His Boyfriend on NBC.

Gus Kenworthy kisses boyfriend Matthew Wilkas before competing in the qualifying round of men's freestyle skiing in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on Feb. 18, 2018.
Gus Kenworthy kisses boyfriend Matthew Wilkas before competing in the qualifying round of men’s freestyle skiing in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on Feb. 18, 2018.
Screenshot via NBC.

On Oct. 22, 2015, 18 months after winning a silver medal in freestyle skiing at the Sochi Olympics, Gus Kenworthy tweeted “I am gay.” In a coming-out story in ESPN the Magazine, Kenworthy described one of the most stressful moments in his sports career: the time he found his “stomach twisting into knots” when a TV producer at the X Games asked him if he had a girlfriend in the crowd. Kenworthy told ESPN the Magazine’s Alyssa Roenigk that he was both stressed out by the question and saddened by the fact that the cameras wouldn’t focus on his boyfriend. “I’ve never had a TV boyfriend,” he said. “That’s actually something I want so bad—a TV boyfriend.”

At the Pyeonchang Games, Kenworthy has that TV boyfriend. On Saturday night, NBC showed the skier sharing a brief kiss with his partner Matthew Wilkas before taking his first qualifying run in the freestyle skiing event. NBC didn’t make a big to do about the peck on the lips. Announcer Luke Van Valin simply identified Wilkas as the Olympian’s boyfriend, adding, “Just a tremendous amount of support coming to Gus Kenworthy.”

Earlier on Saturday, Kenworthy posted a photo of himself with Wilkas on Instagram, writing that he felt “very lucky to have him, my family, my agent and some amazing friends here in Korea cheering me on.”

Also among Kenworthy’s supporters at these Olympics is out figure skater Adam Rippon, who the skier smooched on the cheek earlier in the games.

Rippon and Kenworthy have both criticized Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the U.S. delegation to the Winter Games, for his reactionary stances on LGBTQ issues.

Kenworthy, who earlier this week broke his right thumb and suffered a hematoma on his left hip, managed to qualify for the freestyle skiing finals, which will be televised by NBC later on Saturday night.* After his second qualifying run, NBC showed Kenworthy’s TV boyfriend in the crowd. Wilkas was holding a rainbow flag that said, “WE LOVE U GUS!”

Correction, Feb. 17, 2018: This post originally misstated the dates of the freestyle skiing qualification round and finals. Both events are scheduled for Sunday Feb. 18 in Korea and will be broadcast on Saturday Feb. 17 in the United States.

Read the rest of Slate’s coverage of the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Why Seeing Visible Queer Excellence at the Olympics Is So Important

Bronze Medalist Adam Rippon is Winning the Winter Olympics

Snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis Deserved the Redemption Narrative NBC Gave Shaun White

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