Gus Kenworthy was so torn living in the closet that he sometimes cried after sleeping with women.
In a recent interview, the out Olympian told The Guardian the struggle of hiding his true identity took a toll on his mental well-being. He said the experience of living in the closet while on a whirlwind media tour following his silver medal win at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia was particularly difficult, especially when he had sex with women.
“I was trying to keep up this façade I was straight,” Kenworthy said. “It sounds grimy but there’s also a culture around those events where you’re pulling girls at parties.”
Team USA swept the slopestyle event at the Sochi Games, and his fellow American medalists were single and straight while the closeted Kenworthy had a boyfriend. On the raucous media tour that followed the games, Kenworthy kept living an inauthentic identity, paying a heavy price in the process.
“I was sleeping with women and really trying so hard to fit this other narrative,” Kenworthy revealed. “But I cried after sleeping with women sometimes. It certainly was never the same after I slept with a man.”
One particular interview stayed in his memory.
“We competed on February 13 and on Valentine’s Day we were on the Today show talking about our celebrity crushes, who we would want as our Valentine, and our favorite kind of girl,” Kenworthy recalled. “I just lied. I went on this whole media tour where I felt I was lying the entire time.”
Kenworthy said he “absolutely hated” himself and that the experience left him “very depressed.”
But things took a turn for the better when he came out at the top of his career in a 2015 cover story for ESPN Magazine.
“I am gay,” he posted to social media at the time. “Wow, it feels good to write those words. For most of my life, I’ve been afraid to embrace that truth about myself. Recently though, I’ve gotten to the point where the pain of holding onto the lie is greater than the fear of letting go, and I’m very proud to finally be letting my guard down.”
Kenworthy made history again in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeonchang, South Korea, when he and fellow out, Team USA Olympian and figure skater Adam Rippon were the first two out gay American male athletes to compete representing the U.S. in a Winter Olympics.
And before his qualifying run in Pyeongchang, Kenworthy shared an on-screen kiss with his then-boyfriend, actor Matthew Wilkas. The lip-lock was broadcast live and made headlines around the world, becoming one of the most memorable moments of the entire Pyeongchang Olympics.
Kenworthy is competing now in his final Olympics, this time for his birth country of Great Britain. He revealed to The Guardian life is so much better now that he’s no longer living a lie.
“I’m just much happier now than I was back then when I wasn’t living my life authentically,” Kenworthy said.