Adam Rippon: 'Baby, right now I am living my very best life'

GANGNEUNG, South Korea — There is no spotlight quite like the Olympics and there are few Olympians more comfortable in its glare than Adam Rippon, who won bronze for America earlier this week in team figure skating.

He’s colorful. He’s comical. He is also, along with freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy, one of the first Americans to compete at the Winter Olympics while openly gay. That distinction has earned him significant celebration, but also plenty of negativity.

Some want him to fall. Some want him to fail. Some want him, mostly, to shut up. Some of it is nasty. Some it is pathetic. All of it is idiotic.

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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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Rippon, a 28-year-old from Scranton, Pennsylvania, who skates Friday in the men’s individual short program, just sort of shrugs it off.

He is determined not to have his Olympics defined by those who will never take the time to listen to his words and attempt to understand his message.

It’s why he said, when asked, that he didn’t want his experience defined by the presence of Vice President Mike Pence. And why he declined to respond to Donald Trump Jr., who tweeted Wednesday that Rippon shouldn’t mention Pence’s name at all.

No response?

“No,” Rippon said Thursday after his practice session. “No.”

About the only thing Rippon loves more than skating is speaking, so a no comment speaks volumes. Trump Jr. and anyone like him isn’t his concern. They are likely unreachable. The next generation isn’t, especially the kids of the world who might be struggling with being different, being uncertain or being ostracized. They can hear him.

“I’m some gay kid from the middle of nowhere that you’ve never heard before,” Rippon said. “There’s some negativity but it’s because I am different. I think to those kids out there, yeah, there is always going to be pushback. There are always going to be people out there who won’t like you or will be resistant to you speaking your mind or being true to you are. But they really don’t matter. It’s about whether you like yourself. If you like yourself, nobody else matters. If you love yourself you are living your very best life.

“And baby, right now I am living my very best life.”

Many of the anti-Rippon comments center on a basic premise, the person saying them isn’t a bigot, they just don’t like Rippon throwing his sexuality in their face.

This is figure skating, though. Part of its popularity is based on sexuality, hot guys and beautiful women in artistic and athletic motion. They often act out dramatic love stories while wearing revealing costumes and make-up. None of this is new.

Besides, when the American pairs team of Chris Knierim and Alexa Simeca-Knierim openly talk about being married and end their skates with a kiss, are they throwing their sexuality in people’s face, or just being who they are? When they speak about their deep Christian faith, are they talking too much about their personal lifestyle, or providing a testimonial and serving as a role model for others who believe the same?

How about the American ice dancing team of Evan Bates and Madison Chock, who are dating? Should they shut up, or just be themselves?

“People [who] wish for me to fail are immature,” Rippon said. “And I feel sorry for them.”

The struggle for young people to come to terms with their sexuality, their uniqueness, their place in the world is often painful. Depression, suicide rates, drug and alcohol abuse are higher in those teens. They can devastate not just young lives, but entire families.

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The worst crashes and wipeouts of the Winter Olympics
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The worst crashes and wipeouts of the Winter Olympics
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 14: Yuto Totsuka of Japan crashes during the Snowboard Men's Halfpipe Final on day five of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics at Phoenix Snow Park on February 14, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 14: Yuto Totsuka of Japan crashes during the Snowboard Men's Halfpipe Final on day five of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics at Phoenix Snow Park on February 14, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Short Track Speed Skating Events ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Men?s 1000m Competition ? Gangneung Ice Arena - Gangneung, South Korea ? February 13, 2018 - Roberto Pukitis of Latvia, J.R. Celski of the U.S. and Pavel Sitnikov, Olympic athlete from Russia, react after crashing. REUTERS/John Sibley
Alpine Skiing ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Men?s Alpine Combined ? Jeongseon Alpine Centre - Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 13, 2018 - Matthias Mayer of Austria crashes during the Men's Slalom part of the Men's Alpine Combined. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini SEARCH "OLYMPICS BEST" FOR ALL PICTURES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Alpine Skiing ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Men?s Alpine Combined ? Jeongseon Alpine Centre - Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 13, 2018 - Pavel Trikichev, an Olympic Athlete from Russia, is seen in the net after crashing during the Men's Downhill part of the Men's Alpine Combined. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Figure Skating ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Team Event Pair Free Skating ? Gangneung Ice Arena - Gangneung, South Korea ? February 11, 2018 - Miu Suzaki falls as she and her partner Ryuichi Kihara of Japan compete. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Snowboarding - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Women's Halfpipe Finals - Phoenix Snow Park - Pyeongchang, South Korea - February 13, 2018 - Emily Arthur of Australia crashes while competing. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Snowboarding - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Women's Slopestyle Finals - Phoenix Snow Park - Pyeongchang, South Korea - February 12, 2018 - Yuka Fujimori of Japan crashes. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Snowboarding - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Men's Slopestyle Finals - Phoenix Snow Park - Pyeongchang, South Korea - February 11, 2018 - Sebastien Toutant of Canada crashes. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
Luge ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Women?s Singles training ? Olympic Sliding Centre - Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 11, 2018 - Emily Sweeney of the U.S. crashes. REUTERS/Edgar Su
Cross-Country Skiing ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Men?s 15km + 15km Skiathlon ? Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Centre ? Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 11, 2018 - Denis Spitsov, an Olympic athlete from Russia, Andrey Larkov, an Olympic athlete from Russia, and Simen Hegstad Krueger of Norway crash. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 10: Charlotte Gilmartin of Great Britain and Petra Jaszapati of Hungary crash during the Ladies� 500m Short Track Speed Skating qualifying on day one of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 10, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Figure Skating ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Team Event Men's Single Skating Free Skating competition final ? Gangneung Ice Arena - Gangneung, South Korea ? February 12, 2018 - Mikhail Kolyada, an Olympic athlete from Russia, falls. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 10: Tianyu Han of China and Yuri Confortola of Italy crash during the Men's 1500m Short Track Speed Skating qualifying on day one of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 10, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: Jussi Penttala of Finland crash lands during the Freestyle Skiing Men's Moguls Qualification at Phoenix Snow Park on February 9, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 13: Elise Christie of Great Britain crashes during the Ladies' 500m Short Track Speed Skating final on day four of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 13, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Canada's Patrick Chan falls while 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 / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Snowboarding - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Women's Halfpipe Finals - Phoenix Snow Park - Pyeongchang, South Korea - February 13, 2018 - Emily Arthur of Australia after falling in her final run. REUTERS/Mike Blake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Freestyle Skiing ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Men?s Moguls Final ? Phoenix Snow Park ? Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 12, 2018 - Choi Jae Woo of South Korea falls during the race competes. REUTERS/Mike Blake
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 12: Sho Endo of Japan crashes in the Freestyle Skiing Men's Moguls Final on day three of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Phoenix Snow Park on February 12, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 12: 't Klaudia Medlova #26 of Slovakia crash lands during the Women's Slopestyle Snowboard competition at Phoenix Snow Park on February 12, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
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It’s been that way for generations. It will continue without acceptance. Who would want that suffering to continue?

Rippon, and anyone out there who can show a path of comfort to the afflicted, shouldn’t be rejected or scorned. He’s a beacon of hope, a small solution to something that can happen in anyone’s home. He’s harmless.

Yet the negative comments. The negative tweets. The fear of some guy skating on television.

People rooting for him to fail?

“You know what, if I had never failed in my life I would never be where I am today,” Rippon said. “I’m here today because I did fail. And there were times I didn’t want to get back up. There were times I wanted to throw my skates in the trash and just start doing something else. But I didn’t do that. I learned from all my mistakes. I learned that it is OK to make mistakes.

“I am here today because of my failures. That’s why I am so strong.”

Friday comes the short program, no pressure to win because he probably won’t. Besides, he already has his medal, already has his national championship, already has this growing platform, this brightening spotlight to inspire the kids who need inspiration, no matter the adults who want to whine and complain and obsess about him.

They don’t matter. The rest of the millions who will watch his performance around the world do.

“This is a moment I have been waiting for my entire life,” Rippon said.

The biggest day of your life?

“Every day is the biggest day of my life,” Rippon said. “Tomorrow I am just skating at the Olympics.”

Bring it on. All of it.

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