Gus Kenworthy has a date with history.
On Sunday, he earned not only the chance to go for the gold in slopestyle skiing at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, but also to be one of the first two openly gay men to compete for the U.S. at the Winter Olympics. Adam Rippon, the 2015 U.S. figure skating champion who qualified for the Games earlier this month, is the other.
Kenworthy qualified for his second Olympic team when he finished second at the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain in California, in the fifth and final Olympic selection event for slopestyle. The second-place finish gave the 26-year-old the two podiums needed to meet objective criteria for the Olympic team, after he won the grand prix event at Snowmass in Colorado last week.
Canada’s Evan McEachran won the second final held Sunday with a score of 96.40. Kenworthy earned a 94,80, while Nick Goepper, who qualified for the Olympic team earlier in the day, was third with a 93.20.
Alex Hall, a 2016 Youth Olympic silver medalist, and McRae Williams, the 2017 world champion, finished fourth and fifth. They are tied for third place in the Olympic selection standings. In addition to Goepper and Kenworthy, two more men will be named to the Olympic slopestyle team this week.
Kenworthy, who literally bent over backwards in a gruesome crash during Friday’s halfpipe competition, set the bar on his opening run.
He nailed every trick, hitting a big right double 1260, a switch left double cork 1260 and ended with a massive triple cork 1440 to take command of the leaderboard after the first run.
Kenworthy’s win at Snowmass last week marked his first slopestyle win in nearly two years.
He first became a household name when he won silver at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi as part of a Team USA sweep of the event’s Olympic debut. Joss Christensen won gold with Goepper taking bronze. The following year, Kenworthy came out as gay, becoming the first openly gay action sports star.
He found immediate success just months after his announcement, winning silver in both superpipe and slopestyle at X Games Aspen in 2016, followed shortly by bronze in both big air and superpipe at X Games Oslo that year. Last season, he won silver in slopestyle at the 2017 world championships.
Kenworthy has finished on world cup podiums seven times, with most of those coming in halfpipe. After missing out on the 2014 Olympic halfpipe team, he has been trying to qualify in both events once again for 2018. Kenworthy earned one podium in the five halfpipe qualifying events, bringing him halfway to making the team, but currently sits sixth in the standings for that event.