Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy might miss the upcoming Winter Olympics after suffering both a concussion and complications from COVID-19.
In an Instagram post over the weekend, Kenworthy, 30, said that he’d been forced to pull out of a World Cup event in Colorado after a breakthrough COVID infection left him “disoriented and nauseous.”
On top of COVID, the gay freestyle skier also suffered a concussion while training in Switzerland last month.
“Because I’ve had a few serious TBI’s (traumatic brain injuries) in recent years the seriousness of each added concussion has been stressed to me,” Kenworthy wrote. “I took two full weeks off and followed all of the SafeSport steps to return to snow.”
He continued: “However only two days after getting back on skis I started feeling really sick: fever, chills, etc. I took a COVID test and to my surprise it was positive.”
Kenworthy described it as a breakthrough case, given he is fully vaccinated against the virus. The Olympic silver medalist quarantined in a hotel until he “tested negative and was cleared to fly home.”
“Unfortunately, in the weeks since, I’ve had some ongoing issues with my head,” Kenworthy said. “Any time I’ve tried to workout or gotten my heart rate up I’ve become very light-headed, disoriented and nauseous.
“I was worried it had to do with the concussion but I’ve consulted with specialists and because I had previously passed all the tests and was cleared to return to sport we think it’s more likely residual effects of COVID.”
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Kenworthy traveled to Colorado for the Toyota US Grand Prix, but said that after warming up he “once again felt dizzy and disoriented.”
“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,” he wrote.
“I dropped in but felt completely lost in the air during the first trick in my run — the skiing equivalent to the ‘twisties’. We decided to withdraw me from the event foregoing my second run or a chance in finals.”
“Twisties” is a gymnastics term, often used to describe a sudden mental block while performing. Simone Biles, one of the most decorated gymnasts of all time, cited “having “a little bit of the twisties” when she pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year.
Kenworthy said it was “still TBD” whether he will be able to compete in upcoming competitions.
“With the Olympics less than two months away I’m incredibly frustrated but trying to stay positive and hopeful that this will pass,” he said.
In the meantime, he is asking for those who’ve experienced long COVID to reach out with recommendations to aid his recovery.
Kenworthy previously took home the silver medal in Men’s slopestyle at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. In his career thus far he has, among other medals, won two silvers at the X Games, two golds at the New Zealand Winter Games, and four golds at the Winter Dew Tour.
He also took home gold at the Ski World Cup in Calgary last year, as well as silver in last year’s Winter Dew Tour in Copper.
Kenworthy holds dual citizenship for both the USA and the UK, through his American father and British mother. In 2019, after years competing as an American, Kenworthy switched to compete for Great Britain.
Last year, Kenworthy revealed that he had struggled with depression and suicidal ideation prior to coming out as gay in 2015. Kenworthy called it the “best thing I could have ever done for my mental health.”
“It’s exhausting being in the closet,” he told fellow out athlete Megan Rapinoe. “There was so much time and energy put into harboring that secret that I think it really took a toll on my mental health and I struggled with depression and at moments in my life, thoughts of suicide.”
In 2018, Kenworthy and his then-partner, actor Matthew Wilkas, made history after NBC showed the pair kissing during the ski slopestyle event.
To be able to do that, to give him a kiss, to have that affection broadcast to the world, is incredible,” Kenworthy told reporters at the time. “The only way to really change perceptions, to break down barriers, break down homophobia, is through representation.
“That’s definitely not something I had as a kid. I never saw a gay athlete kissing their boyfriend at the Olympics. I think if I had, it would’ve made it easier for me.”
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