SUNRISE, Fla., April 19 (UPI) — Since figure skater Adam Rippon’s show-stealing Olympic performance, his celebrity has only snowballed, with appearances on talk shows, YouTube specials, magazine covers and even the Oscars red carpet. On Thursday, he was named to Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2018.
In a recent interview with UPI, Rippon talked about his favorite Olympic moments, the highlights of post-season life and how he dealt with a public political spat on the eve of competition.
Rippon skated three clean programs at the Pyeongchang Winter Games, but the moments he spent with teammates are the memories he cherishes most, including the pageantry of the opening ceremonies.
“It was everything I wanted it to be,”‘ he said in a rinkside interview in Florida as he toured with the Stars on Ice show. “It was just as crazy and just as emotional as I thought.”
Rippon was among several skaters competing in the team event, including his close friend, Mirai Nagasu, who became the first U.S. woman to land a triple axel on Olympic ice. Rippon was watching from the sideline.
“My favorite moment to watch was watching Mirai skate so well right after I had skated a clean program myself,” he said. “Four years ago, Mirai and I were sitting out and for her to skate like that and for us to get that medal together was so cool.”
Rippon and Nagasu didn’t make the 2014 Olympic team. While their peers competed in Sochi, Russia, they spent a night on the roof with an In-N-Out comfort food fest. So 2018 was a story of redemption for both skaters, who finished in the top 10 of their divisions.
Rippon also bonded with a Team USA member off the ice in Pyeongchang. Skier Gus Kensworthy and Rippon were the two first openly gay Olympians to compete for the United States.
“We’ve told each other that I’ll teach him how to skate and he’ll teach me how to ski because I’ve never been skiing before,” Rippon said.
Kensworthy stayed a little further from the spotlight as Rippon was involved in a social media controversy with Vice President Mike Pence, who led the U.S. Olympic delegation, over gay rights.
Rippon’s key to staying focused on training during the drama was to keep his head down — and ignore the Internet.
“I just went in every day and worked as hard as I could,” he said. “When I started getting asked these questions about Mike Pence and whatever, yes, I was getting a lot of attention I wasn’t necessarily expecting from Donald Trump Jr. and from Mike Pence himself.
“It can be a lot, but then I remembered that the only way I’m hearing about it is on my phone, so I put my phone in my bag, and I said you know what, I’ll look at it in like two hours. I imagined the whole world was just in my phone and I put it down and what was around me was the only thing that mattered.”
Rippon has had many gold medal moments after the closing ceremony, as well. His favorite so far took place on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, when he got to meet Reese Witherspoon.
“She went backstage and she met my family. She didn’t have to do that, she was late for a premiere, but she did that while I was taping and by the time I got back, she was gone. She didn’t have to do any of that.”
Rippon is touring the United States with the Stars on Ice show through May. Next he’ll appear in the upcoming season of Dancing With the Stars, which premieres April 30.