On the ice Sunday, Adam Rippon delivered a performance of elegance and grace. And off it, he was all suave authenticity, showing a nonchalant charm for television cameras as he became one of America’s first breakout stars of the Winter Games.
Gold medalist Red Gerard had his brash gold-medal moment, but with U.S. skiers kept from doing their thing by the weather, it was left to Rippon to supply some weekend entertainment. He did not disappoint.
“I want to throw up,” he told NBC’s Mike Tirico after the Americans claimed bronze in the team event, when asked about his pre-routine emotions. “I want to go over to the judges and say, ‘Can I just have a Xanax and a quick drink?’ I’ll be fine.”
If you weren’t entertained at that point, Rippon also stepped into a role as an unofficial Olympics ambassador when NBC’s Andrea Joyce asked him if the Games were all he’d hoped they would be.
“Andrea, it’s, like, pretty awesome,” Rippon said, before gazing into the camera. “I highly recommend it. If you ever have the option, come to the Olympics. It’s, like, a fun time. And today was just so special, so much fun.”
It sure beats burying your sorrows with In-and-Out burger, as he and Mirai Nagasu did four years ago when they failed to make the Olympics. Who couldn’t relate to that?
Rippon also made it clear he isn’t finished.
“Girl, I’m ready,” he told ABC’s Amy Robach Monday on “Good Morning America.”
“I’m here. I’m at the Olympics. And I came to play, and I’m so excited to be here,” he said. “And after this team competition and skating so well, I feel ready to show the world what else I have up my sleeve.”
(He also told Robach his post-Olympics celebration would include a trip to Target to get a bottle of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc — “with the twist top.”)
Rippon promises to be more than merely entertaining, though. One of two openly gay U.S. athletes in the PyeongChang Games, he prompted headlines after a series of comments about Vice President Pence, calling Pence’s track record in LGBT rights “terrible,” among other things. As the two sides disagreed about their previous interactions, Pence tweeted last week that he is proud of Rippon “and all of our great athletes,” telling the skater not to be distracted by “fake news.”
“I personally don’t have anything to say to Mike Pence,” Rippon said on the ABC program. “I’m very lucky because legislation that he’s pushed hasn’t affected my life at all. I spoke out because there are people out there whose lives have been affected by change that he’s tried to make. I spoke out for them because right now I have a voice and I think it’s really important for me to use it.”
Rippon, at 28 the oldest American skater to make his first Olympic team in more than 80 years, is likely to continue to bring a voice to the issues he considers important, like bullying and the difficulty of coming out.
“I realize now that it’s important that I share my story,” Rippon told The Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes before the Games. “When you’re not hiding anything, it’s just very easy to be yourself — shockingly.”
Rippon also said he’d “like to do something positive and not just stay at home” after the Games. The reaction after his star turn won’t discourage such thoughts.
“Adam Rippon’s performance last night was a proud moment for our entire country and especially meaningful for LGBTQ Americans. Adam’s visibility as a proud LGBTQ American continues to be a driving force for equality,” the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement on Monday. “Those few minutes on ice just inspired a generation of LGBTQ young people. Even today being an out athlete is revolutionary and athletes like Adam are paving the way for the next generation of young out athletes.”
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