The story behind Gus Kenworthy’s rainbow stars and stripes flag

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – Gus Kenworthy and boyfriend Matthew Wilkas, with a rainbow stars and stripes flag, chee...

Posted: Feb. 17, 2018 6:36 PM
Updated: Feb. 18, 2018 4:13 AM

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – Gus Kenworthy and boyfriend Matthew Wilkas, with a rainbow stars and stripes flag, cheered Adam Rippon at the Olympic men’s free skate on Saturday.

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Wilkas brought the flag to Kenworthy’s ski slopestyle event Sunday morning to cheer him on.

That flag was purchased for $60 at a store in West Hollywood, Calif., Wilkas said while holding the flag at the bottom of the course as qualifying began.

“I knew [we would bring it] as soon as I knew [Kenworthy] was coming [to the Olympics],” Wilkas said. “I was like, we have to.”

Kenworthy met with his parents, Wilkas and friends before his first of two qualifying runs.

“Did you see Britney’s tweet?” was one of the first things Kenworthy said to the group when he saw them.

Wilkas arrived in South Korea late last week, in time to watch an Olympic event for the first time as Rippon skated to 10th place.

Wilkas and Kenworthy sat together and cheered Rippon with the flag.

“We wanted to have an American-slash-pride flag just because of the Olympics and Gus and Adam representing the gay community and the U.S.,” Wilkas said. “It was a great combo.”

Four years ago, Kenworthy wondered about coming out at the Olympics by winning a medal and then embracing his boyfriend at the time.

The place and timing were not right. Kenworthy came out in October 2015.

“Since coming out, I’m definitely, like, the gay skier now,” Kenworthy said in September. “I knew I was stepping into that role when I did it. It’s like, in some ways I don’t really care if that’s the label that sticks because I very much am the gay skier.”

Kenworthy and Wilkas went on their first date on Kenworthy’s birthday on Oct. 21, 2015.

The difference from four years ago wasn’t lost Sunday on Wilkas, who kissed Kenworthy in front of cameras and reporters before Kenworthy’s first run.

“I can’t really speak for Gus. I can only assume it’s monumental for him,” said Wilkas, who was wearing a shirt that read USGAY in red, white, blue and gold letters. “I think it’s overwhelming. I think he probably won’t be able to fully process it until later. This whole experience has been unexpectedly moving for him. I think he feels the pressure of it. The pressure of representing the community here and wanting do so well here for people who love him and also people who hate him and are wishing him to not do well just because of who he is. The pressure of that is intense for him.”

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