US Olympian Gus Kenworthy hopes that a candid kiss shared with his boyfriend at the Winter Olympics in South Korea which aired on primetime TV in the US will help change perceptions and break down homophobia.
The British-born freestyle skier kissed his boyfriend Matthew Wilkas at the bottom of the hill before the ski slopestyle qualifying event on Sunday morning (18 February), but neither of them were aware that the moment was being filmed and would appear on primetime Saturday night NBC in the US.
With a screenshot showing the kiss, Kenworthy later tweeted: "Didn't realize this moment was being filmed yesterday but I'm so happy that it was. My childhood self would never have dreamed of seeing a gay kiss on TV at the Olympics but for the first time ever a kid watching at home CAN! Love is love is love."
Speaking after the event, he said: "I didn't even know that that was a televised moment at all, but I think that's amazing. That's something that I wanted at the last Olympics was to share a kiss with my boyfriend at the bottom and it was something that I was too scared to do for myself. And so to be able to do that, to give him a kiss, to have that affection broadcasted for the world is incredible.
"I think that the only way to really change perceptions, break down homophobia, break down barriers is through representation. That's definitely not something I had as a kid. I definitely didn't see a gay athlete at the Olympics kissing their boyfriend and I think that if I had it would have made it a lot easier for me, so hopefully it did that for other people."
Kenworthy also said that although he did not walk away with a medal, he feels "more fulfilled" than at the last Winter Olympics when he won silver in the ski slopestyle because he is "out and proud and living my life authentically".
The kiss was greeted with support online, including from openly gay Team USA teammate, figure skater Adam Rippon, who tweeted: "Wow okay i just whimpered to myself "so beautiful"."
Kenworthy has previously spoken about coming out three years ago, one year after his medal win at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014. He told People: "I think Sochi, in a way, is the reason I came out. Having an Olympic medal validates that you can be a successful freeskier ... It's like a credential that sticks with you the rest of your life."