Olympian Chris Kinney standing under orange poles with black Japanese lettering, wearing an orange beanie and white Lacoste shirt-sleeve shirt with AirPods in his ears.

Chris Kinney was almost chased out of Japan when he first moved to the country that’s always captured his imagination. The out Olympian’s grandmother is Japanese, and he feels a kinship with the Japanese people.

So when the opportunity arose for Kinney to train with the Japanese track team, he jumped at the opportunity. But soon, he started to endure constant harassment, and his next two years were a nightmare. Kinney’s tormenter called him constantly, slashed his car tires and ripped apart his apartment.

All the while, Kinney was also trying to sort out his sexual identity.

Growing up mixed-race, he never felt like he fit into a group, and his bisexuality was an extension of that. Kinney felt uncomfortable around women, and was secretive about his attraction to men.

It was a trying time, but Kinney got to the other side. He accomplished his Olympic dream for Team USA, and told his coming out story to the world.

And now, he’s back in Japan, having the time of his life.

Kinney is in the midst of a Japanese vacation, which is even cooler once you know the backstory. He now travels to Japan at least once per year.

His current trip is taking him around Kyoto, the country’s former capital and cultural center. The city is known for its astonishing Buddhist temples and architecture.

“It’s funny. I come to Japan usually at least once a year. It’s my second home away from home, but I’m always taken aback at how much there is to see in one small island country,” Kinney posted on Instagram.

Kinney, 35, grew up in conservative Georgia. He says he was often teased, and track was his escape.

“Even though I was a talented runner, I felt the need to hide who I was to many of my teammates and friends,” he wrote on Outsports. “Running was my escape from the world around me. When I ran it was just me in the moment and the track.”

The Georgia native ran track at Georgetown University before moving to Japan. He says he loved the experience, until the threatening messages started. It was apparent that someone very close to Kinney was behind the torture, but he couldn’t pinpoint who.

“It was almost as though I was under constant surveillance in my own home. I began to grow distrustful of everyone around me,” he wrote.

The night before a big track meet, Kinney’s assailant slashed his car tires and spray-painted obscenities on his car, most of them Japanese anti-gay slurs.

Thanks to the kindness of an old neighbor, Kinney made it to the meet with 25 minutes to spare, and wound up winning the competition.

He boasted about his incredible achievement on Facebook, which upset his stalker even more.

Shortly thereafter, Kinney’s apartment was broken into, and his bed and sofa were slashed. His belongings reeked of urine.

The disturbing episodes sent Kinney further into the closet, until his grandmother showed up. She was finally able to convince the police to investigate the case, and the threats stopped.

Around that time, Kinney decided to take a respite from track and field, and try his hand at bobsledding. He competed at a USA Bobsled combine, and performed well enough to get invited to a rookie camp.

For the next three years, he trained with the bobsled team, and qualified for the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang.

Despite his athletic success, Kinney was still uncomfortable with his sexuality. But when he made the Olympic team, those fears started to dissipate, too.

“The moment my four-man team and I qualified for the Games, all of those insecurities melted away. I no longer cared about people’s perception of me, because I just accomplished a feat few people get the honor of doing,” he said.

From there, Kinney continued his bobsled career, racing in the World Cup and other international competitions.

He started to publicly come out after the 2018 Games, thanks to encouragement from a fellow LGBTQ+ teammate.

“I learned that you cannot live your life dictated by the opinions of others,” he said. “You have to live for you and find happiness being the wonderful person you are. You should never be ashamed in whom you love.”

These days, Kinney remains involved in sport, volunteering for Team USA during the 2022 Games and singing the national anthem at the Games in Lake Placid this year.

Our dude’s got pipes!

In an interview with Athlete Ally, Kinney said it would’ve been “amazing” to have out bisexual athletes to admire as a kid.

Now an out athlete himself, he’s filling the gap.

“I no longer want to wear a mask and hope to be an inspiration for a young athlete hoping to achieve their Olympic dreams,” he said.

Kinney is certainly an inspiration to us!

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