Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon has become a national sensation, but one of the people closest to his heart might not realize just how much attention he has received: his own mother.
Kelly Rippon, 57, opened up about her history-making son in a new interview. Adam, 28, is the first openly gay athlete to compete in the Winter Olympics for the US, and is returning from PyeongChang with a bronze medal.
During the Olympics, Adam made headlines not just for his prowess on the ice, but also for his wit, which he displayed in viral interviews and on Twitter. He even received an offer to work for NBC as a correspondent, but ended up declining so that he could remain with his teammates in the Olympic village.
Family: Kelly Rippon, 57, opened up about her son Adam Rippon, 28, in a new interview. Adam is the first openly gay athlete to compete in the Winter Olympics for the US
America’s sweetheart: During the Olympics, Adam (pictured with his mother) made headlines not just for his prowess on the ice, but also for his wit
Adam also made headlines when he declined to meet with Vice President Mike Pence due to his stance on gay rights. He has since said that he would agree to a discussion now that the competition is over.
But Kelly explained that she has actually been unable to read many of the headlines dedicated to her son over the past few weeks while she stayed in South Korea.
‘I didn’t know it was groundbreaking,’ she told Glamour of Adam’s status as the first openly gay athlete to represent Team USA in the Winter Olympics. ‘Because I don’t define him that way.
‘From what I understand, there’s been a lot of attention on him. But I’m [in South Korea]—so we’re geo-blocked from television. The only thing I’m reading is CNN, the Mueller investigation. That’s it. We’re not getting the Olympics news.’
Missing out: Kelly explained that she has been unable to read many of the headlines dedicated to her son over the past few weeks while she stayed in South Korea
Finding out: ‘I didn’t know it was groundbreaking,’ Kelly said of Adam’s status as the first openly gay athlete to represent Team USA in the Winter Olympics
Still, Kelly, whom Adam has praised for her support, said she isn’t completely in the dark about her son, who once referred to himself as ‘America’s sweetheart’.
‘I’m not oblivious because people are sending me a note, or his brothers and sisters will say something because a couple of them were here with us,’ she added.
‘And we didn’t quite understand what people were talking about, telling us Adam’s everywhere. I did see his followers jump with a huge spike. So I’m aware of that, it’s just that I haven’t really put it all together yet.’
Kelly also detailed how it feels to see her son being so open about being gay and being so comfortable being himself in the public eye.
‘It’s hard to explain,’ she said. ‘People will say things like, “Can he tone it down?” Or “Well, I don’t care about his sex life.” Well, nobody’s talking about your sex life when you’re talking about your sexual orientation. No one’s even admitting to having a sex life. That’s somebody else connecting it.’
Sport: Kelly looked back on what Adam was like as a child, and explained how she came to realize what an important role ice skating has played in his life
Iconic: Adam (pictured during the closing ceremony with freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy) became a sensation throughout his Olympic experience
She looked back on what Adam was like as a child, and explained how she came to realize what an important role ice skating has played in his life.
‘As a mom, you can’t [just] look at the outside. You have to try to see how they look on the inside,’ she added. ‘And it’s difficult especially when you have kids that are coordinated or academically successful, because he was a good student as well.
‘You forget that the inside could be very dark, or could be very sad or disconnected. In hindsight I do see that the ice became his best friend, and that inner voice became stronger by saying, “Yeah, that was a good job.”‘
As for Adam’s refusal to talk to the vice president before the Olympics, Kelly said she doesn’t think her son was criticizing the politician ‘as a human being’, but was rather expressing his disagreement with, among other things, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which Pence signed into law when he was the governor of Indiana.
The law makes it possible for companies and people to invoke their religious freedom as part of legal proceedings, and was widely criticized as an anti-LGBT measure opening the door to discrimination.
‘I think [Adam] was critical of certain things that were on Pence’s website when he was running for office in Indiana,’ Kelly added. ‘When someone [has] such strong religious beliefs and they’re a politician, you really need to have respect for everyone and not pity those who don’t believe what you believe.’
Kelly also weighed in on actress Sally Fields’ attempt to play matchmaker between Adam and her own son, Sam Greisman, on Twitter.
‘Oh, moms do what we’ve got to do,’ Kelly said. ‘I adore Sally Field. I love every single thing that she’s ever been in. So I will never say anything critical about the Flying Nun, ever. I think Adam answered her; he said one day they’ll probably meet and he admires his mom for being so bold.’