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Windy City Times 2016-06-08
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Figure skater Adam Rippon breaks the ice
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times

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FFigure skater Adam Rippon has constantly won awards throughout his career. In 2010, he became a Four Continents champion and, in 2016, a U.S. national champion. He earned many junior titles through hard work and perseverance over the years.

The two-time silver medalist came out as gay in the October issue of Skating magazine in 2015. Windy City Times talked to him about this and the upcoming Stars on Ice show that brings him to Illinois.

Windy City Times: Hi, Adam. Where in the world are you calling me from?

Adam Rippon: Spokane, Washington. I am at the World Team Challenge Cup. It is the first time they are having this event. It is Team North America versus Team Europe and Asia so we are on the same team as our Canadian peers. We know what we have to skate but we don't know what the layout will be yet. The competition starts tomorrow so we find out more then.

WCT: So you still compete often?

AP: Our last major event was the World Championships in Boston. I would say this event is more relaxed and fun. Ever since the team competition has been added to the Olympics that they try to host one team event at the end of every season. This is not the layout that they have at the Olympics. This is more of an exhibition than a competition. The stakes are lower and it is more of a test event.

WCT: Is there a time to relax from skating?

AP: We have an offseason and a hotter season. Our offseason goes right into our show season. One season goes right into another.

WCT: It sounds exhausting.

AP: It is exhausting, but you know what? I think that if you enjoy what you do it is less daunting.

I will be honest. There are a few times that I have looked at my schedule recently, put my phone away, and needed a moment of silence.

WCT: Did you always want to be a skater?

AP: I have always danced around and listened to music. I was a really athletic kid. I played baseball, soccer and tennis. My mom would bring me to an outdoor rink every winter and it never seemed to be my thing. When I was turning 10 years old I kept asking her to bring me to the rink. My mother finally signed me up for group classes as a birthday present. I was hooked after that.

WCT: She must be happy that you took to it.

AP: I more happy that she pushed me into the group classes.

WCT: You live in L.A. now, but you're originally from Pennsylvania?

AP: Yes; I am from Scranton, Pennsylvania, originally but I consider Los Angeles home now. I love it there and would be hard-pressed to move.

WCT: You came out of the closet recently?

AP: I came out last year in the summer in SKATING magazine.

WCT: What prompted that decision?

AP: There was a lot of controversy with the law in Russia going into the Olympic Games. Being a gay athlete came into the forefront, so it was something that we were asked about a lot.

When I was younger, I struggled with coming out and discovering who I am. Since I didn't have a lot of gay friends, what helped me the most was watching YouTube videos and reading articles on different athletes. I watched so many that it became really normal. Their lives didn't change and they became freer. I decided then to take the opportunity when it happened because it was helpful for me when someone else did it. I hoped that I could help someone else that might be struggling with their identity.

WCT: Have things changed for you since?

AP: No, nothing has changed. My coach is just as mean to me, my friends are just as nice to me, and my family loves me just the same.

I feel very natural speaking about it when I do interviews and more confident on the ice. I don't feel like I am hiding anything, not that I was before, but it is very liberating.

You don't have to be gay to be inspired by a coming-out story because being gay may not be the thing that you are scared of people judging you about. Be who you are and be authentic. It is easier for people to communicate and relate to you when you are open.

WCT: Did you think about Johnny Weir?

AP: I did, but our stories are so different. I wanted to come out when I was still competing. I think that makes a better impact. Some people are worried what the judges will think. If they judge me on being gay and not my skating then that is a shame. That is not right and not the time we live in.

I want people to follow the journey of my career and who I am as an athlete. I felt really comfortable to share my story.

WCT: Describe the show Stars on Ice.

AP: This is my first time being a cast member. It is a dream come true. I remember watching the show as a child and wanting to be a part of it. I am lucky because in my opinion it is the best Stars on Ice. There are a lot of fun group numbers between the cast members and beautiful transitions between the numbers.

The cast is just off their seasons at the World Championships. We are in great shape and very excited to be around each other performing. It is a great show for the whole family.

WCT: What music are you performing to?

AP: I am doing a Beatles medley so song like "Blackbird" and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

The other song will be "O" by Coldplay.

WCT: Have injuries been a problem for you with skating?

AP: I have been really fortunate that I haven't had anything major. I credit that to my coaching team and trainers. I was the oldest competitor at nationals this year at age 26, and I don't feel old at all. As I have gotten older I am more aware of my body. When I feel sore or an injury is on it's way I have the maturity now to walk away. I know now when I need to rest and recover.

My trainers keep me in the best shape I have ever been in and I am continually getting stronger.

WCT: Was there an award that meant the most to you?

AP: Winning my first national title this season has been the most monumental award in my career thus far. It was a culmination of a lot of hard work and many years of ups and downs. It was special to share that moment with my friends and peers who I have competed with over the years. They were there as spectators. It all came together at just the right time.

WCT: I read you are working on a quad lutz. What is that?

AP: There are a few different jumps. There is an axel, a toe loop, a salchow loop, a flip and lutz. The lutz is the hardest quadruple besides the axel. There is only one other skater attempting a quad lutz right now. I'm the other one!

I started it because I wanted to stand apart from my competitors technically. A quadruple lutz is when you are skating backwards and you toe in with your dominant foot, you jump up, you rotate four times and land backwards on your dominant foot.

WCT: Sounds nerve-wracking...

AP: It is, but I know my other competitors aren't trying it so it is also thrilling. My peers are looking at me to see if I will land it and the attempt is really rewarding.

I am striving to prove myself and always get better.

Stars on Ice skates into the Allstate Arena, 6920 Mannheim Road, Rosemont, on Friday, April 29, at 7:30 p.m. Ticket information can be found at .

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