Out Olympic freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy has shared some ongoing health challenges that have him concerned about his prospects for the upcoming 2022 Winter Games which are less than two months away.
The 30-year-old says the issues began about six weeks ago when he suffered a concussion during training in Switzerland. As an extreme sport athlete, Kenworthy says he’s had a few serious TBIs (traumatic brain injuries.).
After taking two weeks off and following proper SafeSport protocols, he went back to training. But within days he “started feeling really sick: fever, chills, etc.” A positive COVID test confirmed that, even though he was fully vaccinated, he’d caught a breakthrough case.
After ten days of self-isolation in a hotel, he tested negative and was cleared to fly home. But in the ensuing weeks, anytime he’s attempted to workout or get his heart rate up, he’s “become very light-headed, disoriented and nauseous.”
Initially, Kenworthy thought he was still feeling the effects of the concussion. But medical specialists now believe his issues are more likely residual effects of COVID.
Trying to push through, he showed up at Copper Mountain last week for the first World Cup event of the season.
“After the warm-up before the elimination round I once again felt dizzy and disoriented,” Kenworthy explained. “I was just discussing what to do with my coach, @justin_dorey, when the starter called my name and said the judges were ready for me. I dropped in, but felt completely lost in the air during the first trick in my run – the skiing equivalent to the ‘twisties.'”
The world became familiar with the term “twisties” this past July when American gymnast Simone Biles was forced to step out of some competitions at the 2021 Summer Olympics due to a similar mental block. She eventually returned for the finals in balance beam and won a bronze medal.
Kenworthy and his team decided it was best to withdraw from the event, missing out on a chance for the finals. He hoped to compete this week at The Dew Tour, but Tuesday afternoon he shared in his Instagram Stories he pulled out of event due to the “ongoing issue” with his head. He is, instead, heading to Los Angeles in hopes of resolving the problem.
With the Olympics less than two months away, Kenworthy admits he’s “incredibly frustrated but trying to stay positive and hopeful that this will pass.” He also asks fans to pass along any recommendations that have helped them cope long COVID in the past.
Kenworthy is hoping to participate in his third Olympics having represented Team USA in the 2014 and 2018 Winter Games. Following his silver medal performance at the 2014 Olympics, he famously came out as gay in a 2015 ESPN interview.
In December 2019, he announced he would be competing for Great Britain in 2022 in what he believes might be his final Olympic Games.
While Kenworthy was born in Chelmsford, England, his family moved to Colorado when he was three. His mother is British and he holds a British passport.
“She has been my #1 fan for my entire life and has proudly stood at the bottom of the mountain waving the stars and stripes in support of me for two Olympic cycles,” he wrote. “Now, in what is sure to be my last Olympic appearance, I’d like to return the honor by proudly holding up the British flag for her.”
Having represented the U.S. in 2014, Kenworthy told the press he felt his participation in the 2018 Olympic Games was “actually less about representing the U.S. as much as it was representing the LGBT community, and it was the first time that the U.S. had two openly gay men competing – Adam Rippon and I were those two guys.”
While still experiencing a great sense of American pride, “I was kind of skiing for the rainbow flag.”