“I guess I’ve always looked good in red, white and blue” jokes Gus Kenworthy, as he discusses why he chose to switch competitive nationality from the USA to GB Snowsport.
The Sochi 2014 slopestyle silver medallist will represent Team GB at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, the country his mother is from - and where he was born before moving to America as a child.
That has worked out well for Kenworthy, who has become a huge star in the US, where snowsports currently draw a far wider audience than in the UK, which is desperate to build interest. The addition of the 30-year-old to Team GB will be huge in making that possible, though British fans may recognise him from somewhere else.
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Avid viewers of American Horror Story will recognise him as Chet Clancy from season nine of the series, and he has also been a guest judge on Ru Paul’s Drag Race. While a lot will be made about why Kenworthy chose to make the switch for his swan-song, he says it is not something which has affected him too much.
“I have always considered myself to be dual nationality. To be completely honest and transparent, I've more so considered myself an American for most of my life, and I grew up in the States,” Kenworthy told Eurosport.
“But I've always held a passport and my mum's British and there's not been much of a reason for me to not feel like I was British, her whole family is. I feel like I've always had strong ties.
In terms of switching teams, it hasn't really been a huge deal. I mean, there's a different flag that appears next to my name at the start. But otherwise, I'm still skiing and training the same way that I would have.
“The interesting thing about skiing is that it's not really divided up into countries in terms of how you train and stuff. If you're in Copper (Mountain) training in the halfpipe, you're in Park City training, you're going to be next to guys from Switzerland and Norway and Canada and New Zealand and everyone ends up training in the same places.
“I'm skiing for GB, but it's sort of the same approach that I would have had if I was skiing for the US and it's all the same faces at the mountain.”
The big difference will be once the Beijing Games come around and Team GB really kicks into gear. Kenworthy clearly regards himself as an international athlete, and it is true that it is only the Olympics where such a huge deal is made about representing a particular country in freestyle snowsport. But when he gets to the Olympic Village, he will for the first time be staying in a different block from his former American team-mates.
“I think that's when I'll feel the change. Getting there, the uniforms and opening ceremonies, I think it's going to really kickstart that feeling of national pride, which I'm really excited for,” he said.
“Not that I don't have national pride, but it hasn't really felt much different, it's just competing at the same events. It's a random draw in terms of which heat you're in and who else is in your heat, and then you're in the finals. It doesn't feel like much has changed.”
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Given his profile in the sport as a history maker - he became the first openly gay Olympic skier in 2015 - Kenworthy is only too aware that he can help increase participation in snowsport in the UK.
“There hasn't been a tonne of representation. James Woods has been pretty much the only male (freestyle) skier from GB that's made it and been really successful on a big stage and has done great, he was at the Olympics and did well at the Olympics,” he said.
“He's obviously been an incredible representation for GB in our sport, but there hasn't been a tonne of it. I am excited to hopefully get to help introduce this sport to more people and get more people excited about it in GB.”
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