Freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy has announced he is switching teams. Having represented the US in two former Winter Olympics, Kenworthy, 28, says he will switch to represent Great Britain from 2020.
His application to switch to GB Snowsport was approved Tuesday by the International Ski Federation.
This means he will likely compete to represent Britain in the 2022 Winter Olympics, which he expects will be his last.
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. He lives in Los Angeles.
In an Instagram posting, Kenworthy said: “I am very excited to announce that I will be competing for Team GB on the road to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
View this post on Instagram
I am very excited to announce that I will be competing for Team GB on the road to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Although I was raised in the US I was born in the UK and my mum is British through-and-through. She has been my #1 fan for my entire life and has proudly stood at the bottom of the mountain waving the stars and stripes in support of me for two Olympic cycles. Now, in what is sure to be my last Olympic appearance, I'd like to return the honor by proudly holding up the British flag for her. ????
“Although I was raised in the US I was born in the UK and my mum is British through-and-through. She has been my #1 fan for my entire life and has proudly stood at the bottom of the mountain waving the stars and stripes in support of me for two Olympic cycles.
“Now, in what is sure to be my last Olympic appearance, I’d like to return the honor by proudly holding up the British flag for her.”
Kenworthy came out as gay in 2015. He is one of the most high-profile athletes in the US and has gone on further his career into acting, appearing in the most recent season of American Horror Story.
His news has prompted a huge response from friends and fans.
Actor Johnny Sibilly (Pose), posted a response on Kenworthy’s Instagram saying, “Honor them roots baby!”. Actor Matthew Morrison (Glee) posted, “Happy to see you shred it in any capacity. So much respect for you, brother!”
Many expressed pride and happiness for Kenworthy and applauded the gesture to his mom.
“What a beautiful way to honor her! You can never replace the special place a mother holds. She will be even more proud of you!”, said @mateogil.
However, a few disgruntled sports fans questioned his loyalties.
“I’m sorry but it’s a bit disrespectful,” commented @jpcon92. “E pluribus unum, we are second to no one. I come from Mexican parents, but will never love any other country more than America.”
Kenworthy won a silver medal for the US at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. In an interview with BBC Newsbeat, he denied that he was switching teams because he feared not being chosen by the US team to compete in 2022 in Beijing – but acknowledged it would probably be easier to qualify for Britain.
“I have no doubt in my mind that I could go back for the US but this is definitely going to be a much smoother approach for me,” he said.
“This gives me a path where I’m not taking a place away from one of my friends in the US.”
He told PA News agency: “I think this is going to be my last Games, kind of like my swansong, and I just wanted to do it for my mum.”
He says after representing the US in 2014, the 2018 Winter Olympics, “was actually less about representing the US as much as it was representing the LGBT community and it was the first time that the US had two openly gay men competing – Adam Ripon and I were those two guys.
“I was kind of skiing for the rainbow flag.
“This time around I feel like it’s my last games and I want to do it for my Mum, so in a way I feel like I’ve represented three different flags at three different games.”