Freedom, finally. Olympic freeskier Gus Kenworthy came out as gay in the November issue of ESPN The Magazine, and shared his history-making cover story with fans via Instagram on Thursday, Oct. 22.
“I am gay,” he captioned the image, in which he shows off his biceps — and a tattoo of the Olympic rings — in a loose T-shirt and snow goggles. “Wow, it feels good to write those words.”
The 24-year-old Olympic silver medalist continued with a lengthy, heartfelt post about what it means to him to be coming out as an openly gay athlete in a post-acceptance world.
“For most of my life I’ve been afraid to embrace that truth about myself,” he wrote. “Recently though, I’ve gotten to the point where the pain of holding onto the lie is greater than the fear of letting go, and I’m proud to finally be letting my guard down.”
Kenworthy, who hails from the small town of Telluride, Colo., explained that even though he knew that he was gay from a very early age, it was difficult to feel comfortable coming out given that he was in the public eye since he went pro at 16.
“I pushed my feelings away in the hopes that it was a passing phase but the thought of being found out kept me up at night,” he wrote. “I constantly felt anxious, depressed and even suicidal.”
Throughout his career, Kenworthy has made major waves in the extreme sports world, taking home a silver medal from the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, garnering the respect of fellow athletes, and even becoming the face of the X Games (he was just 19 the first time he competed).
While in Sochi, Kenworthy also saved and adopted the Sochi strays, five dogs that had been living just outside an Olylmpic media center. After posting a photo of himself cuddling with the pups, he made headlines and saw his social media numbers grow exponentially.
In the interview with i, the hunk — who has previously been linked to Miley Cyrus and ice-skater Gracie Gold — added that he has always put extreme pressure on himself to perform well because he “felt like [he] had something to prove.”
“I knew I didn’t want to be a good skier,” he said in the interview. “I wanted to be the best.”
Now, though he is bracing for the impact of what his announcement might have on his sponsors and fans, he feels relieved to be “genuine,” finally.
“Looking back, it’s crazy to see how far I’ve come,” he wrote on Instagram. “For most of my life I’ve dreaded the day that people would find out I was gay. Now, I couldn’t be more excited to tell you all the truth. …Y’all have supported me through a lot of my highs and lows and I hope you’ll stay by my side as I make this transformation into the genuine me — the me that I’ve always really been.”
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