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    Top-Ranked Olympic Skier Gus Kenworthy Comes Out As Gay With ESPN Cover

    “I never got to be proud of what I did in Sochi because I felt so horrible about what I didn’t do."

    Twenty-four-year-old American freeskier and Olympian Gus Kenworthy has come out as gay in the latest issue of ESPN The Magazine, released Thursday.

    ESPN

    Kenworthy recently completed the 2014–15 season as the Association of Freeski Professionals overall champion — for the fifth year in a row.

    "I never got to be proud of what I did in Sochi because I felt so horrible about what I didn't do," Kenworthy told ESPN of taking home the silver medal during the 2014 Winter Olympics.

    Scott Halleran / Getty Images

    "For most of my life I’ve been afraid to embrace that truth about myself," the silver medalist added in a personal Instagram post. He also discussed struggling with anxiety and depression over his sexuality.

    I am gay.

    Wow, it feels good to write those words. For most of my life I've been afraid to embrace that truth about myself. Recently though, I've gotten to the point where the pain of holding onto the lie is greater than the fear of letting go, and I'm proud to finally be letting my guard down.

    My sexuality has been something I've struggled to come to terms with. I've known I was gay since I was a kid but growing up in a town of 2,000 people, a class of 48 kids and then turning pro as an athlete when I was 16, it just wasn't something I wanted to accept. I pushed my feelings away in the hopes that it was a passing phase but the thought of being found out kept me up at night. I constantly felt anxious, depressed and even suicidal.

    Tom Pennington / Getty Images

    Kenworthy wrote that he hopes to become the role model he never had for a younger generation of athletes.

    Looking back, it's crazy to see how far I've come. For most of my life I've dreaded the day that people would find out I was gay. Now, I couldn't be more excited to tell you all the truth. Whether you've suspected it all along or it's a complete shock, it's important for me to be open and honest with you all. Y'all have supported me through a lot of my highs and lows and I hope you'll stay by my side as I make this transformation into the genuine me - the me that I've always really been.

    I am so thankful to @ESPN for giving me this opportunity and to Alyssa Roenigk for telling my story to the world. I think about the pain I put myself through by closeting myself for so long and it breaks my heart. If only I knew then what I know now: that the people who love you, who really care about you, will be by your side no matter what; and, that those who aren't accepting of you are not the people you want or need in your life anyway.

    Part of the reason I had such a difficult time as a kid was that I didn't know anyone in my position and didn't have someone to look up to, who's footsteps I could follow in. I hope to be that person for a younger generation, to model honesty and transparency and to show people that there's nothing cooler than being yourself and embracing the things that make you unique. Click the link in my bio to read the full story and keep your eyes peeled for the Nov issue on newsstands soon!

    Following the special cover release, Kenworthy tweeted:

    Today is the first day of the rest of my life.

    Just watched my story air on @ESPN @SportsCenter and I'm all choked up. Tears of joy! Thanks for your support :)

    "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." - Dr. Seuss

    The athlete gained attention in Sochi not just for his achievements on the slopes, but for rescuing stray dogs in Sochi.

    In the ESPN interview, Kenworthy admits his boyfriend at the time had a huge hand in fighting months of legal issues to bring the dogs home.

    You could say Kenworthy is not only an Olympian, but a true American hero.

    Lover of puppies, protector of freedom, and frankly an all-around perfect human.

    Did you know he also has an unparalleled singing voice? There are really too many reasons to love him.

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    Most of the reasons involve puppies.

    (But also some other things.)

    Gus Kenworthy: True. American. Hero.

    Read the full ESPN interview here.