Hig Roberts, a retired American alpine skier who has many titles under his belt, has just come out as gay.
In doing so he has become the first U.S. Alpine Ski Team member and the first male World Cup alpine skier in the world to come out. Congratulations!
The 30-year-old spoke exclusively with Out Magazine about his decision and the difficulties he encountered along the way, many of which revolved around his time in the professional sports world.
Here are five things you should know about Roberts who has now joined a fantastic group of fellow athletes that have busted down the closet doors in 2020 (including former English soccer star Thomas Beattie and Chilean basketballer Daniel Arcos).
1: Rough Start. His career was almost over before it even began. Roberts started skiing at a young age before he was forced to remain in a wheelchair with metal rods in his body after suffering from a debilitating femur break when he was 9.
2: Decorated Athlete. The Colorado native had 31 starts in the World Cup between 2015 and 2019 where he won 2 giant slalom national titles in between those years. He was also first alternate to the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics which featured several other openly gay athletes including Gus Kenworthy (slopestyle free skiing) and Adam Rippon (figure skating).
3: Career Regrets. Roberts told Out about how him not being his authentic self publicly during his career did a lot to him mentally. “[Being in the closet] took away a lot of the experience and the joy I could have experienced during this life and that’s a shame,” he revealed. “I had moments of standing on the podium with national titles and still feeling depressed. I was almost in a daze because of the mental anguish I would feel. I had sleepless nights. I had anxiety attacks. I had big bouts of depression. I had to closet all of that from my teammates and my coaches.”
4: “Fighting” For His Life While Closeted. Roberts hid his sexuality for many reasons, one that revolved around his fear of losing scholarships if they ever found out he was gay. “The decision of my career stood in the perception of other people and the money that they were willing to give me to keep me going,” he told Out. “An amazing thing about the Olympics is that it’s a time for the world to literally get together and be united in the hopes of progressing together. The whole range of triumphs and failures, you relate to it. I think what comes out of it is social progress. You see that in the form of the Olympics, but there’s also this strong pressure on Olympic athletes that your voice doesn’t necessarily matter. And that is not okay.”
5: Coming Out Inspiration. He credits other openly gay athletes from yesteryear like Greg Louganis and current superstars Kenworthy, Rippon and Megan Rapinoe for helping him come out. “I remember being so scared, and almost disappointed, that maybe I’ll never get to the point of being strong enough to do something like that,” he said. “I hadn’t seen anyone like me or a role model to relate to. Fortunately, I found them after my skiing career.”
Roberts also shared a powerful statement regarding his advice for other queer athletes. “I want that to be possible for people but I also want those athletes to know and these kids to know that there are people out there who have felt the same things. You need to do this on your own time and it needs to be your journey,” he said.
“You can drive yourself into the darkest realms of holes and loneliness. I think a lot of people are doing that right now, but you also have just as easy an ability to change that narrative for yourself. If it’s too scary to do it, you’re not a coward. You’re not a weak person.”