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SPORTS: FIGURE SKATING Adam Rippon discusses skating, coming out, future
Extended for the online edition of Windy City Times
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

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Adam Rippon is a U.S. figure-skating champion who plans on competing in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Rippon ( who came out publicly as gay in October 2015 ) is also an emerging LGBTQ activist.

Rippon has spent the past six months at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and recently did an NBC Olympic promotional shoot with other 2018 Winter Olympic hopefuls.

In addition to these endeavors, Rippon is also a style icon and choreographer. He is the oldest of six children and was born ( 1989 ) and raised in the Scranton, Pennsylvania area.

Rippon will be performing with other figure skaters in the Stars on Ice tour in a variety of locations, including the Allstate Arena on May 6.

Windy City Times: Tell me your journey into the figure-skating world. I understand your mom played a role.

Adam Rippon: I live in Los Angeles now but where I'm from, there are bitterly cold winters. Every winter my mom would bring me to our local skating rink and, at first, I wanted nothing to do with skating; I just wanted to have a giant soft pretzel and a hot chocolate.

Then one year, I asked my mom to go skating and after that I asked her to take me again and again and that's when I got the figure-skating bug. For my 10th birthday, my mom signed me up for the local group classes. That's when my interest completely peaked, and it's been that way ever since.

WCT: What are some of the highlights of your skating career thus far as well as your plans for the future?

AR: Early in my career, it was becoming a two-time junior world champion; however, the career-defining moment was winning my first national title in 2016. In that moment, I felt like my Olympic journey could continue because I was at a make-or-break-it, do-or-die moment. I'd been eyeing that national title for so many years, and winning it was a real breakthrough for me.

WCT: Explain your signature move—3Lz, the Rippon Lutz—in a way that non-skaters would understand.

AR: The typical jumping position is where your arms are close and pulled into your chest because that's the fastest way for you to gain rotation speed. In 1988, Olympic champion Brian Boitano famously would do a triple lutz with one arm over his head and, because it's so difficult, not a lot of people have done it. I thought I could do it with both of my arms above my head and tried it for the first time almost 10 years ago and, now, people call it the Rippon arm variation in the air.

WCT: What are the best lessons you've learned while training, and have you translated them into other parts of your life?

AR: As I've gotten older, the lessons I've learned on the ice have really translated into the rest of my life. One of them is being aggressive and taking charge of the situation but also being patient which I find difficult to do at times. You also have to forgive yourself and learn from your mistakes and not take everything personally, especially what people say about you.

From my coaches, I've learned hard work isn't always hard but it's always worth it. If you don't put in that extra time it will show up in your performance. That's been instilled in me since I was a young kid and it's come full circle in my everyday life.

WCT: What was the catalyst for you coming out publicly? How did your family and friends react when you told them prior to coming out to the world?

AR: After I'd read articles and watched YouTube videos of people telling their coming-out stories, I decided to come out to my friends and family in my early 20s. My mom told me she knew I was gay from an early age and I asked her why she didn't tell me but she said I had to come to terms with it on my own schedule, not hers. My favorite story is when I told my then-15-year-old brother, who was playing video games at the time and he asked if that's all I wanted to tell him because he wanted to finish playing his video game.

Then I saw Michael Sam and Tyler Oakley come out publicly—and that's when I knew it was possible to tell the world. The more people that come out and share their story the better because everyone's coming out story is different. It's important if you have some sort of platform that you speak about your circumstances and how you dealt with them because what you say might help others like Michael and Tyler's coming out stories helped me.

WCT: In terms of advocacy, what do you hope to do within the LGBTQ community? What about [organizations] You Can Play and/or Athlete Ally?

AR: I was inspired by the resistance that sprung up after last year's presidential election. I think if you're LGBTQ, a woman or a minority of some sort you shouldn't feel less than and if you feel that something isn't right you should let your voice be heard. If you're quiet you're being complicit.

I'm blessed because I have a great group of friends and family who love me for who I am but I know there are people who aren't as lucky as I am—especially transgender Americans, who just want to go to the bathroom without being harassed. Being an ally to the transgender community is a priority for me. This [LGBTQ equality] isn't a political issue, it's a human rights issue.

I never thought I'd be someone who went to rallies or protests but I'm doing that now including attending the LA's Women's March with my mom.

I've reached out to You Can Play and I'm in the preliminary stages of getting involved with that organization and I'll be reaching out to Athlete Ally in the coming weeks.

WCT: Who do you look up to, and why?

AR: My mom because she had to deal with me as a child. When I told her I was coming out publicly, she got really worried for me because she saw her gay friends not being given the same opportunities she was given but she also told me she had my back in every way possible.

Since there weren't training facilities where I'm from my mom had to travel with me so I could train, My mom has proven to me time and again that if you really want something you can make it happen and she has sacrificed so much for me to achieve my own dreams and she's done the same thing with my younger siblings. She's an excellent human being and mother and I aspire to be just like her.

WCT: You're also a style icon and choreographer. How do those things manifest themselves in your life?

AR: My style comes from learning about myself and as I've gotten older I care less and less what people think and that includes what I wear as a civilian and on the ice.

The same can be said about the choreography I do for other skaters because when I first started doing this I was self-conscious about whether my client liked what I was suggesting. I realized that aside from coming up with movements or a beautiful program, my job is to push my clients outside of their comfort zone so they can tell a story that means something to them emotionally with their program.

WCT: What should attendees expect from you performance-wise during the Stars on Ice tour?

AR: We have so many amazing cast members including world, national and Olympic champions and beyond that we're all friends. I love doing these tours because we do many different routines with skaters that we might not necessarily work with in other venues.

Personally, it's a way for me to push myself to do different moves and routines that I won't try in competitions.

I'm so glad we're coming to Chicago and I can't wait to perform.

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