Adam Rippon will be first openly gay US man to compete in the Winter Olympics

Figure skater Adam Rippon made history Sunday as the first openly gay U.S. man to qualify for the Winter Olympics. 

Rippon, 28, was selected to join fellow skaters Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou in representing the U.S. at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month.

The Pennsylvania native’s selection came as a surprise to some, given that he came in fourth place at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Saturday. U.S. Figure Skating President Sam Auxier cited Rippon’s body of work in selecting him over Ross Miner, 26, who came in second place, yet has “struggled in international competition.”

Rippon told The Washington Post he was “really grateful” to have been chosen, noting, “I feel that my experience will help me have my best performances at the Olympic Games, and it feels amazing to say that.”

His placement is historically significant for another reason, too. Though Chen, 18, and Zhou, 17, are also making their Olympic debuts, Rippon is the oldest American figure skating rookie to compete in the Winter Games since 1936. 

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Adam Rippon, the US' first openly gay Winter Olympian
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Adam Rippon, the US' first openly gay Winter Olympian
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 12: Adam Rippon of the United States skates during the Men's Single Skating section of the Team Event on day three of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 12, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Amin Mohammad Jamali/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA FEBRUARY 12, 2018: Figure skater Mirai Nagasu of the United States with her coach Tom Zakrajsek (L-R front) wait for the score after performing during the ladies' free skating event as part of the figure skating team event at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, at the Gangneung Ice Arena. Pictured back are figure skaters Alexa Scimeca Knierim, Bradie Tennell, Adam Rippon, Chris Knierim, and Nathan Chen. Valery Sharifulin/TASS (Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 13: United States Figure Skater Adam Rippon speaks during a press conference at the Main Press Centre on February 13, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA FEBRUARY 12, 2018: Figure skater Adam Rippon of the United States performs during the men's free skating event as part of the figure skating team event at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, at the Gangneung Ice Arena. Valery Sharifulin/TASS (Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 07: Adam Rippon skates in the Smucker's Skating Spectacular during the 2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the SAP Center on January 7, 2018 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 06: Adam Rippon confers with coach Rafael Arutunian before skating in the Men's Free Skate during the 2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the SAP Center on January 6, 2018 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 06: Adam Rippon competes in the Men's Free Skate during the 2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the SAP Center on January 6, 2018 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 04: Adam Rippon competes in the Men's Short Program during the 2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the SAP Center on January 4, 2018 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 04: Adam Rippon reacts to his score in the kiss and cry with his coaches Rafael Arutunian and Derrick Delmore after skating in the Men's Short Program during the 2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the SAP Center on January 4, 2018 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
NAGOYA, JAPAN - DECEMBER 10: Adam Rippon of the USA performs his routine in the Gala exhibition during the ISU Junior & Senior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final at Nippon Gaishi Hall on December 10, 2017 in Nagoya, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura - ISU/ISU via Getty Images)
LAKE PLACID, NY - NOVEMBER 25: Adam Rippon of the United States looks on prior to competing in the Men's Free Skating during day two of 2017 Bridgestone Skate America at Herb Brooks Arena on November 25, 2017 in Lake Placid, New York. (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
LAKE PLACID, NY - NOVEMBER 25: Adam Rippon of the United States performs in the Mens Free Skate program on Day 2 of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating at Herb Brooks Arena on November 25, 2017 in Lake Placid, United States. (Photo by Maddie Meyer - ISU/ISU via Getty Images)
This picture taken on November 11, 2017 shows Adam Rippon of the US during the award ceremony of the men's free skating event in the NHK Trophy figure skating competition in Osaka. / AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)
PARK CITY, UT - SEPTEMBER 25: Figure skater Adam Rippon poses for a portrait during the Team USA Media Summit ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games on September 25, 2017 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
PARK CITY, UT - SEPTEMBER 25: Figure skater Adam Rippon poses for a portrait during the Team USA Media Summit ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games on September 25, 2017 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
USA's Adam Rippon competes in the senior men short program at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final, on December 8, 2016 in Marseille, southern France. / AFP / ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT (Photo credit should read ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 12: Adam Rippon of the United States competes during Men's Free Skating on day two of the Trophee de France ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating at Accorhotels Arena on November 12, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Joosep Martinson - ISU/ISU via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22: Adam Rippon of the United States waits for his score to be announced on day 2 of the Grand Prix of Skating at the Sears Centre Arena on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere - ISU/ISU via Getty Images)
Figure Skating ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Men Single Skating short program competition ? Gangneung Ice Arena - Gangneung, South Korea ? February 16, 2018 - Adam Rippon of the U.S. performs. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Figure Skating ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Men Single Skating short program competition ? Gangneung Ice Arena - Gangneung, South Korea ? February 16, 2018 - Adam Rippon of the U.S. performs. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 16: Adam Rippon of USA during the Figure Skating Men Short Program on day seven of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 16, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 16: Adam Rippon of USA during the Figure Skating Men Short Program on day seven of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 16, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 16: Adam Rippon of the United States reacts after competing during the Men's Single Skating Short Program at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 16, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 16: Adam Rippon of the United States reacts after competing during the Men's Single Skating Short Program at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 16, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 16: Adam Rippon of the United States reacts after competing during the Men's Single Skating Short Program at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 16, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 16: Adam Rippon of the United States reacts after competing during the Men's Single Skating Short Program at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 16, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 16: Adam Rippon of the United States competes during the Men's Single Skating Short Program at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 16, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 16: Adam Rippon of the United States competes during the Men's Single Skating Short Program at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 16, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 13: United States Figure Skater Adam Rippon speaks during a press conference at the Main Press Centre on February 13, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 13: United States Figure Skater Adam Rippon speaks during a press conference at the Main Press Centre on February 13, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 12: (L-R) Bronze medalists Nathan Chen, Adam Rippon, Mirai Nagasu and Bradie Tennell of Team United States celebrate during the medal ceremony after the Figure Skating Team Event at Medal Plaza on February 12, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
USA's Adam Rippon reacts after finishing his routine in the figure skating team event men's single skating free skating during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung on February 12, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Roberto SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
USA's Adam Rippon (C) reacts after competing in the figure skating team event men's single skating free skating during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung on February 12, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Roberto SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 12: Adam Rippon of the United States competes in the Figure Skating Team Event � Men's Single Free Skating on day three of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 12, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
January 4, 2018; San Jose, CA, USA; Adam Rippon reacts in kiss and cry in the mens short program during the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
January 6, 2018; San Jose, CA, USA; (L-R) Second place Ross Miner, first place Nathan Chen, third place Vincent Zhou, and fourth place Adam Rippon pose for a photo after the men's free skate program during the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Figure Skating ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Training ? Gangneung Ice Arena - Gangneung, South Korea ? February 7, 2018 - Adam Rippon of the U.S. during practice. REUTERS/John Sibley
Figure Skating - ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating NHK Trophy - Men's Winners Ceremony - Osaka, Japan - November 11, 2017 - Silver medalist Adam Rippon of the U.S. celebrates during the victory ceremony. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Figure Skating - ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Trophee de France 2016/2017 - Men's Free Skate - Paris, France - 12/11/16 - Adam Rippon of United States skates. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
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“I’m so excited that my two sons are doing so well. I’m honored to be their father,” Rippon quipped. “I always sort of feel like a leader or a big brother.”

He may not be the only queer athlete heading to Pyeongchang from the U.S. in February. Freeskier Gus Kenworthy, who came out as gay in 2015, is expected to find out later this month if he’s made the cut on the U.S. ski team. 

While Rippon makes history as the first openly gay man to qualify, a number of Olympic figure skaters have come out as LGBTQ after their competitive days have ended. 

Though Johnny Weir’s glitzy performances at the 2006 and 2010 Winter Games prompted media speculation over his sexuality, he didn’t confirm he was gay until the release of his 2011 memoir, Welcome to My World

Similarly, gold medalist Brian Boitanocame out as gay in 2013, nearly two decades after he last competed in the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. 

In contrast, Rippon vowed to be open about his sexuality from the get-go, if he was “given the chance and the platform.” 

“Growing up, I really didn’t have a lot of role models,” he told NPR in a Jan. 5 interview. “And I want somebody who’s young, who’s struggling, who’s not sure if it’s OK if they are themselves to know that it’s OK.”

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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