Adam Rippon loves Reese Witherspoon, but he may have more in common with Katniss Everdeen. Long before figure skater Adam Rippon was getting attention for snubbing the U.S. vice president, he was showing strength against steep financial odds.
Rippon, 28, the openly gay Olympics figure skater who refused to meet with Vice President Mike Pence over Pence’s stance on LGBT civil rights, said he ate apples from his gym because he didn’t have enough money to buy groceries when he was training in his early 20s. He is one of only two openly gay Americans competing at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. The other is freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy.
He ate Granny Smith apples from the locker room for lunch and dinner. “A little over five years ago, I moved to California. I was broke as f***, to the point where the little money I did have, I used to join the gym,” Rippon told NBC before winning Olympics bronze along with Mirai Nagasu in the team figure skating competition. “I would steal all the apples they had out for all the gym members because sometimes I wouldn’t have enough money for groceries.”
Four years ago, Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu were eating hamburgers on a rooftop after missing the #WinterOlympics.
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics)
Rippon, the oldest of six children, said Monday that his mother raised him in Scranton, Penn. to stand up for what he believed in. “I remember telling myself that I would make it through and I would be stronger. I promised I would work my hardest every day and I would always strive to be my best,” he said. His performance at the 2018 Winter Olympics was also his debut as an Olympian; Nagasu was the first American woman to land a triple axel jump.
“It might be my first time at the Olympics, but it’s not my first time at the rodeo,” he told NBC after his figure skating debut at the 12,000-seat Gangneung Ice Arena, something he has been training for his whole life. He said he was focused on his figure skating He added, “I want to represent my country to the best of my abilities — and I want to make Reese Witherspoon proud.” She responded, “You make me so proud! Keep making us all so happy!”
— Reese Witherspoon (@RWitherspoon)
Rippon isn’t the first Olympian to struggle financially. Many work odd jobs to pay the rent and live with roommates to save money while they train for Olympic glory. “Many of the Olympic athletes who don’t gain world-wide fame and end up on a Wheaties box are paid very little, relying on sponsors and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) — and even Kickstarter campaigns — for financial help,” Steve Kutz wrote for MarketWatch in 2016.
“While Olympic medal winners in Russia get luxury cars from their government, the United States Olympic Committee is the only major competing country federation that doesn’t receive government funding,” Kutz wrote. Since 1978, USOC has had the exclusive distribution rights over logos and other licensing material and intellectual property associated with the Olympic Games. Sponsorship deals help — and companies come calling, particularly those with a compelling narrative.