3 Openly Gay Athletes Could Be Headed to the Winter Olympics

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John Fennel @jahnfennel, Gus Kenworthy @guskenworthy and Adam Rippon @adaripp, via Instagram.

(EDGE) We're not in Russia anymore!

It was a stifling time for LGBTQ athletes during the last Winter Olympics, held in Sochi, Russia in 2014 - especially because President Vladimir Putin approved the highly controversial "gay propaganda law" in 2013. Of the 2,900 competitors from 88 nations around the globe at the Sochi Games, just seven were openly gay - and none of them were men, according to a report from NBC News.

With the upcoming Winter Games right around the corner, things are already looking better for LGBTQ people. The games will be held in Pyeongchang, a country in the Gangwon province of South Korea, in February 2018. According to NBC News, America could be sending three openly gay men to the Olympics.

Both freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy and lunger John Fennell competed during the last Winter Games, but stayed in the closet. Now they will compete out and proud.

Though he competed for Canada in 2014, Funnell, 22, is now Team USA, thanks to dual citizenship.

"I was really distracted by being a closeted athlete," he told NBC News. "I felt like I had to change who I was.

"I thought I wouldn't be accepted by my teammates," he added. "I changed the way I talked to my teammates. I concealed my emotions."

Kenworthy came out in an ESPN profile in 2015, saying it was a great decision for his career as he signed with Visa, Toyota, Ralph Lauren, Deloitte and 24 Hour Fitness.

"It's absolutely true - I think I'm more marketable now as an out athlete," Kenworthy, 26, said in an interview with SportsBusiness Journal. "Every brand is looking for diversity, and it's an important thing for brands to have diversity, more so than it's ever been."

In his ESPN interview, Kenworthy explained how being closeted during the Winter Games in Russia impacted him - like when he couldn't acknowledge his boyfriend, who was cheering for him.

"I never got to be proud of what I did in Sochi because I felt so horrible about what I didn't do," he said. "I didn't want to come out as the silver medalist from Sochi. I wanted to come out as the best freeskier in the world."

Figure skater Adam Rippon, 27, is the third openly gay athlete hoping to compete in the Winter Games in South Korea next year. When he came out in 2015, Rippon said he wanted to send a message "to the dad out there who might be concerned that his son is a figure skater."

"When athletes come out and say that they're gay, it makes it a little more normal and less of a big deal - especially in the athletic community," he told Skating magazine (via OutSports). "You have a lot of respect for your fellow athletes for working hard toward a goal. Their sexual orientation takes a backseat to that."

Fennell will learn if he's headed to the Winter Olympics Friday while Kenworthy and Rippon find out next month.


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