The influence of Olympic freeskier Gus Kenworthy, who won a slopestyle silver medal at the Sochi Olympics, reaches far beyond the mountain. On June 25, the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT rights advocacy group, honored Kenworthy with its Visibility Award at a gala in Salt Lake City. Kenworthy publicly came out in an ESPN The Magazine cover story released in October 2015, and since then he said he’s been overwhelmed by the largely positive response he’s received from fans, fellow skiers and sponsors. “Isn’t that ironic?” Kenworthy said during his acceptance speech. “How much of my life, how many agonizing years I spent worried about what my life would be like if people knew the real me, and how much better it has actually become since I did let them know.”
Kenworthy is also featured in this year’s ESPN The Magazine Body Issue, which debuts on ESPN.com on July 5, and hits newsstands July 7. With the 2018 Winter Olympics, in Pyeongchang, South Korea, approaching, TIME spoke with Kenworthy about the reactions to his decision to come out, his mentality going into Pyeongchang, and representing Team USA in the Donald Trump era. Excerpts from the conversation, edited for length and clarity, are below.
What was is like being photographed for the Body Issue?
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