Team GB can look forward to having some Hollywood stardust among their athletes at the Winter Olympics in Beijing - as Gus Kenworthy attempts to sign-off a freestyle skiing career which has made him one of the sport’s biggest stars.
The Sochi 2014 slopestyle silver medallist switched allegiance to GB Snowsport two years ago, having competed for the USA for his entire career. Born in Essex to a British mother, he holds a UK passport but has lived in the States for most of his life.
It is a huge boost to the British team, both for their medal prospects and their profile at the Games. Kenworthy is one of the sport’s biggest names and he made history in 2015 when he became the first openly gay Olympic skier. He has had an incredible career, whether that is saving dogs from a dog meat farm in South Korea, to launching a bid for Hollywood stardom - and Beijing will be his swan-song.
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Here is a chance for Britain to further increase interest in snowsport in the UK, along with the likes of James Woods and Katie Ormerod, who have also been blazing a trail. For many British observers of the Olympics in February, it will be a surprise to see an athlete suiting up in Team GB gear who they may only recognise from American Horror Story - or from being a guest judge on Ru Paul’s Drag Race.
After the Games, Kenworthy will hang up his competitive skis and concentrate on his acting career and other interests, but getting back on the podium is the number one goal for now.
“It really would be a huge dream come true, I've been working really hard,” Kenworthy told Eurosport, in a wide-ranging interview.
These past few years have been pretty rough for me and bumpy in terms of injury, and it has not been a smooth road to the Olympics. But I do certainly still feel like I'm in the mix for a medal.
“I don't want to think too much about the results, because it's something I just don't have control over. It's a judged sport. There are so many factors, like weather conditions, how the halfpipe is, that come into play.
“I am really trying to just focus on landing the best run that I can and knowing that I can walk away with my head held high.
“If it gets me on the podium, it would not only be amazing for me, and a historic moment for me, but also for GB, and I would feel very, very proud to be representing Team GB if I do that.”
Skiing has been Kenworthy’s life and he is going out on his own terms. There is still plenty of fight in him and before the coronavirus pandemic hit, he won his first World Cup gold for GB, in Calgary. But coming to terms with the end of his career is a difficult one to get his head around.
“I haven't even thought about how emotional that will be,” he said.
That last run In China, if it's in the finals, it'll be the last time I will ever do a halfpipe run competitively, and the last time I'll be in contention for a medal. It will be a pretty emotional moment. But I'm also ready for it.
“I feel forever grateful to this sport for everything that it's done for me and the opportunities it's presented. I've gotten to travel the world and meet so many wonderful people. I feel like I'm ending on a really, really positive note. I've had an amazing career and I feel so lucky. But I am ready to move on to other things.”
Those other things are expanding on his acting career. In 2019, Kenworthy starred in the ninth season of the incredibly popular American Horror Story as Chet Clancy. It lit a fire in him, which he is hoping to pursue further - though he is taking nothing for granted.
“It (acting) definitely is going to be a focus. It's something that I am passionate about and excited about,” he said.
“But it's also a really tough industry to try and crack into. I feel lucky that I got a big break with American Horror Story, but it was honestly kind of a little bit of a handout and I feel so grateful for it.
"I don't think that's going to necessarily parlay itself into other roles and things like that. I think that will come - if it comes - from hard work and dedication. After the Games, I'm excited to take more classes and take lessons and really try and hone that skill and develop that craft and then eventually, start booking and keep booking roles.
“It's something that I think I kind of fell into. My ex-boyfriend is an actor, and he's a really talented actor. Just being with him and helping him with auditions and putting him on tape for things and helping him prepare for roles got me really excited about it. He was really encouraging about me trying to explore it for myself, so that's kind of how it started.”
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