Adam Rippon: 'It’s really fun to be me'

Adam Rippon of the United States performs in the men's single skating free skating in the Gangneung Ice Arena at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Samantha Johnson

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — For figure skating fans, bronze medalist Adam Rippon is a household name. But for many Americans, Rippon is well known for another reason.

In January, Rippon and Vice President Mike Pence exchanged a war of words that has continued into the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Rippon, the first openly gay athlete to qualify for the Winter Olympics, told a USA Today reporter he did not want to meet the Vice President at the games because of his lack of support for gay rights and gay Americans.

Pence’s office responded, saying the comments made were "totally false."

In an Olympic press conference Tuesday, Rippon said, “The fact that the Vice President felt so passionately to speak out is a very interesting and unique experience that I’ve never gone through.”

For nearly a month, the conversation has continued on social media, where the Olympian received much more attention off the ice — and good attention, at that.

In Pyeongchang, the controversy still lingers between competitions and medal ceremonies. Rippon, however, has turned this conversation into a personal platform.

"I think it is so important that as an athlete, I use this platform to my advantage,"Rippon said. "I think me using my voice has given my skating a greater purpose, more so than just something I love to do."

This "greater purpose" has allowed him to connect to young Americans and be a role model for the LGBTQ community.

"I know what it’s like to be a young kid and feel out of place and want to share your ideas," Rippon said. "I spent a lot of time worrying about what people thought of me. And as soon as I was able to let go of those doubts, that’s really when I was able to find my voice."

In fact, he is able to combine the political climate with the competition climate to exude his true passions.

"Life really isn’t worth living if you don’t have passion," Rippon said. "I have a passion for what I do, and along with having a passion for being an Olympic athlete, I have a passion for talking with people and sharing my story and interacting with people."

Rippon will continue the free skating competition Feb. 17, but for the next week, he will continue to be a catalyst for conversation.

Samantha Johnson is a Ball State University journalism student. She and four other BSU students will be periodically contributing Olympic stories to WTHR. The students are in PyeongChang, South Korea to cover the Olympics.