Thank you, Adam Rippon!
The weeks of the Winter Olympics were a frantically joyful time in my home, and in many others in the local area, as we cheered on our local Olympic hero. Adam Rippon emerged as a beacon of light, not only for his amazing skill and artistry on the ice, but for his sparkling personality, strength of character and willingness to stand up for what he believes.
A month or so before the games began, I heard a young man from Clarks Summit had made it onto the Olympic team. “That’ll be nice,” I thought. “More reason to watch and get involved.”
“His little brother is in some of my classes,” my high school junior told me. “He’s a pretty cool guy.”
I figured this skater (I couldn’t remember his name then) would do okay and fade into the background. I had no idea what we were in for.
Adam started to make the local news. My daughter had told me his brother, her classmate, was not going to Pyeongchang. It was too expensive for the family to make the trip. Then I saw that someone in the community had created a fundraising page. Enough was collected for a few of them to go. (Adam is one of six children.) Again, I thought, “This is lovely, but will we even see him skate or hear his name once the Games begin?”
Local restaurants and other businesses began to put up signs and billboards rooting for Adam. Little did I know that, before long, those signs would turn congratulatory.
The Games began, but we were pretty busy that first weekend. Come Monday night, though, just two days into the competition, we gathered around the television. Our American men were falling apart on the ice — until Adam skated, that is. He put on one of the most beautiful, expressive, exuberant and enjoyable performances I have ever seen. He was clearly having fun, and his joy reached through the television cameras, over the nearly 7,000 miles between us, and straight into our hearts. My husband, my two youngest children and I were awestruck. “THIS guy is from Clarks Summit?”
When my oldest got in from work that night, we replayed Adam’s performance for her. By then we had seen his post-performance interview, and were even more intrigued. This athlete, this artist, this strong young man just bursting with enthusiasm, wit, charm and integrity — he was OUR guy?! We were overwhelmed with pride.
Adam became the biggest star of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. He became a household name across the country and the world. His spell-binding performances and his unmatched spirit were infectious. The television job offers rolled in. Once the world caught sight of him, he was a fixture on our national news shows, every day of the Games.
Watching Adam perform and speak in front of the cameras became the highlight of every day for my family. Undoubtedly, any night he didn’t compete, we watched skiing, bobsledding, snowboarding, or whatever event was on. But my teenagers sat, transfixed to their phones. They were following social media about Adam. They would tell me to pause the DVR; they had to show me some interview, background story, meme, or GIF about Adam.
When Adam did compete, my little 6-year-old sat, mesmerized on my lap, eyes glued to the television screen. We called it, “Rippon-Watching” and we couldn’t get enough.
Watching the closing ceremonies, I explained to my youngest what they meant.
“You mean it’s over?” she cried. I kid you not; she wailed like a stuck pig the night the Games ended. Reassurance from four loving and concerned older family members did little to soothe her. Telling her it was only two years until the Summer Games and four years until the next Winter Games made it even worse. “You mean I’ll be 10 next time they skate?” The hysteria continued.
So thank you, Adam Rippon! And thanks to your mother, Kelly, to whom you refer as the person who taught you “to treat everyone with respect, to always be a hard worker, and to be kind.”
And thank you, Kelly, for saying, “My son is making being yourself popular again.”
You got that right. Adam is authentic. He is who he is, and it is wonderful.
The world is certainly his oyster. One thing he has made clear is that he will use his celebrity platform to speak out for young people suffering challenges he understands, from discrimination regarding sexual orientation to eating disorders in male figure skating. An incredible athlete, an artist and an individual with great integrity, Adam has not only made us proud; he has brought us joy and hope.
Whatever his future holds, and I think it will be great, he gave us one heck of an exciting ride. This season will forever go down in my memory as “The Winter of Adam.”