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Freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy made his first Winter Olympics appearance for Great Britain today, and after a shaky start, managed to just scrape into the qualifiers for the final.
Kenworthy, 30, was competing in the men’s freeski halfpipe in Beijing. All competitors had two runs at the course. Kenworthy fell on his first run, so earned a low score of 8.50. This put additional pressure on him for his second run.
Thankfully, he managed a much improved 70.75 on his second attempt. He then had a nervous wait to see how the rest of the field would perform and if his combined score was good enough to see him through.
Competitors with the top twelve scorings go to the final on Saturday. Kenworthy placed 12th.
After crashing out on Run 1, @guskenworthy‘s remarkable 2nd Run was enough to qualify for finals tomorrow in 12th place
YES GUS!!! #TeamGB #Beijing2022 pic.twitter.com/3lJ1pkQPfN
— GB Snowsport (@GBSnowsport) February 17, 2022
How did Gus Kenworthy hold onto that 12th qualifying spot through so many people ? Happy for him, but wow, there were at least 10 people that went after him and they all either fell and/or didn’t score as high. #OlympicGames
— Adam Flash (@AdamFlash9) February 17, 2022
gus kenworthy qualifying for the finals bcs everyone that could have knocked him out fell or flopped the snow said gay rights
— josh (@THlSISTHIS) February 17, 2022
“I don’t think I’ve ever been more stressed out,” Kenworthy told BBC Sport.
“I could have done so much more. My first run I had a fall and then really didn’t want to fall again, and so I decided to be a little bit more conservative with my [second] run. Unfortunately, I didn’t put it down quite as clean as I could have and the judges were pretty harsh on me for it, rightfully so, but it was not the position I wanted to be in.
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“I feel very grateful that I am through to the final, and the final is a new day.”
At the time of writing, Team GB has yet to win any medals at the 24th Winter Olympic Games. You can catch a video of Kenworthy’s second run on the BBC. Besides Kenworthy, fellow Team GB freestyle athlete Zoe Atkin, 19, also placed fourth in the women’s event and proceeded to her respective final.
Kenworthy, who came out as gay in 2015, competed for the USA at the 2014 (where he earned a silver medal) and 2018 Winter Olympics. However, in 2019, he announced he was switching sides to Team GB.
Kenworthy was born in Chelmsford, England. His family relocated to Colorado in the US when he was three. His mother is British and he holds a British passport. When he announced the move to Team GB, he said it was in honor of his mom. In a recent interview with GQ, he also said that he knew there would be less competition for Olympic places on the GB skiing squad.
Related: Gus Kenworthy talks more about why he switched to Team GB
He also revealed that he still harbored some upset toward a Team USA coach over something that went down in 2014.
“It was announced that I was on the team for slopestyle and half-pipe,” Kenworthy recalled. “Then, just before the games, they took my half-pipe spot from me and gave it to another skier, Torin Yater-Wallace, and said that it was the coach’s discretion. I didn’t really realize that they could just do that, but that was something that I kind of have never got over.
“So that really upset me. And I like Torin, he’s a friend. It also was difficult because I wanted him to go to the games too, and I was happy for him, but it was really sad for me.”
Kenworthy has spoken of the halfpipe being his favorite event.
The Men’s Freeski Halfpipe Final takes place Saturday at 9.30am Beijing time. Kenworthy goes up against four USA competitors among the final 12.
UPDATE 02.19.22 – Kenworthy comes eighth in final
Gus Kenworthy came eighth in today’s halfpipe final in Beijing, after suffering a horrendous crash during his second run. Fortunately, he was able to ski away and still complete his third run. The event was plagued by particularly challenging weather conditions. New Zealand’s Nico Porteous took the gold medal, with USA’s David Wise and Alex Ferreira taking silver and bronze.
Afterward, Kenworthy said, “Considering the conditions, I still had more that I wanted, but after that bad slam I am happy to be walking away and land the run and getting through it in one piece.”
In difficult conditions, @TeamGB‘s Gus Kenworthy was somehow able to get back to his feet after a horror crash in the men’s halfpipe final earlier today.#Beijing2022 | @GBSnowsport pic.twitter.com/iBdXJ0I8T9
— Eurosport (@eurosport) February 19, 2022
How did Gus Kenworthy get up and finish his run after this crash!?
Watch on @BBCOne and @BBCiPlayer https://t.co/4OUCoTNcAj #BBCOlympics #Beijing2022 pic.twitter.com/uFVpt7OWOU
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) February 19, 2022
After his third run, Kenworthy told the BBC, “Thank you for everything skiing.
“This sport and the Olympics and competing on a professional level has changed my life in ways I could have never imagined. I grew up in a town of 2,000 people, 48 kids in my graduating class,” said Kenworthy.
“I’m gay. I felt like I just didn’t fit in in sport, and to be out and proud, competing at the Olympics and all of the opportunities that have come my way since the Olympics, I couldn’t be more thankful. I know that there’s an expiration date and I’m at that date.”
His second run must have been fantastic if he fell on the first one and still got into the finals. Good for him!
Glad to hear he made it. Still have no interest in the Olympics this year. Idk what it is?
Unfortunately I feel the same way. All the controversy has just taken the wind out of the Olympic sails. Not to mention an impending war. Seeing Putin cozy up to Xi Jinping at the opening ceremony just left a sour taste. Then there is the roundabout way that Russians have skirted the ban by competing under ROC flag to avoid their continued doping issues.
It’s funny growing up in the 70’s and 80’s even 90’s the Oscars and Olympics summer /winter were unmissable events, but now haven’t watched any of them in years along with free to air TV.