Gus Kenworthy won’t be flying the American flag should he make it to the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.
Though he won a silver medal at the slopestyle competition for the United States in 2014, the freestyle skier, 28, will now be competing for Great Britain as a part of GB Snowsport, he announced Tuesday.
“This is a great opportunity for me to start again and compete in three events in 2022. I have strong roots in the UK and have been close with many of the athletes. For me, this is an incredible opportunity to join a first-class team and I believe we will be able to deliver great results,” he said in a statement.
The transition was approved by the International Ski Federation (FIS) after Kenworthy — who was born in Chelmsford, Essex and holds a United Kingdom passport, therefore qualifying him for the move — requested his release from US Ski and Snowboard.
“I am also doing this for my mother who was born and lived in the UK for much of her life, she has always been my greatest supporter throughout my career,” he continued.
“She taught me to ski when I was three years old and is the reason I compete today. It’s great to now be representing GB – a country which means so much to me and my family.”
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“During my downtime, it was important for me to take a step back and contemplate my next move and now that is resolved I am looking forward to training and getting in condition for the upcoming season.”
Another reason for the switch was the ability to take “a path of less resistance,” Kenworthy told NBC Sports.
“This gives me an advantage in terms of qualifying and having less to worry about, less people I’m up against, just being able to focus on the tricks that I want to be working on, the runs that I want to do, put me in the best position to hopefully get another medal and not have to kill my body trying to qualify in multiple disciplines right before the Games against the U.S. guys,” he told the outlet.
“Although I was raised in the US I was born in the UK and my mum is British through-and-through. She has been my #1 fan for my entire life and has proudly stood at the bottom of the mountain waving the stars and stripes in support of me for two Olympic cycles,” he wrote in the captions of a post announcing the news. “Now, in what is sure to be my last Olympic appearance, I’d like to return the honor by proudly holding up the British flag for her.”
For the 2022 Games, the athlete hopes to qualify in ski slopestyle, halfpipe, and the new Olympic event of big air, according to NBC Sports.
In addition to his medal win, Kenworthy garnered media attention during the 2014 Winter Olympics when he adopted two puppies he found in Russia. He came out as gay the following year and made history, along with figure skater Adam Rippon, as the first openly gay U.S. athletes to qualify for the Winter Olympics in 2018.