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8 Feb, 2018 14:21

Gay Team USA skater refuses to speak with Pence before PyeongChang 2018

Gay Team USA skater refuses to speak with Pence before PyeongChang 2018

US figure skater Adam Rippon, the first American openly-gay Winter Olympic athlete, has turned down a meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence at the PyeongChang 2018 Games due to the latter’s stance on LGBTI rights.

Pence, who arrived in South Korea to lead the US delegation at the PyeongChang opening ceremony on Thursday, reportedly attempted to establish a dialogue with Rippon following the skater’s criticism of his views in an earlier interview.

When asked for his thoughts on Pence leading the US delegation, Rippon told USA Today, “You mean Mike Pence? The same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy? I’m not buying it.”

The 2016 men’s figure-skating champion did, however, leave the door open to meeting the vice president post-Olympics, claiming he was “not trying to pick a fight” and that his decision was solely down to a conflict of beliefs.

“If I had the chance to meet him afterwards, after I’m finished competing, there might be a possibility to have an open conversation,” he said.

“He seems more mild-mannered than Donald Trump. … But I don’t think the current administration represents the values that I was taught growing up. Mike Pence doesn’t stand for anything that I really believe in.”

Following the interview, the vice president’s press secretary Alyssa Farah swiftly provided USA Today with a rebuttal to what she called “misinformed claims.”

“This accusation is totally false and [has] no basis in fact...the vice president will be enthusiastically supporting all the US athletes competing next month in Pyeongchang,” she said.

On Thurdsay, Pence tweeted Rippon directly, saying, "I want you to know we are FOR YOU. Don’t let fake news distract you. I am proud of you and ALL OF OUR GREAT athletes and my only hope for you and all of #TeamUSA is to bring home the gold. Go get ‘em!"

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Although Rippon, 28, said he would prefer not to meet with Pence at the customary meet-and-greet between Team USA athletes and the US delegation, he may miss the event due to the US figure-skating competition regardless.

Rippon, who came out as gay in October 2015, said he would not want to meet Pence before his event, as he felt the VP had “gone out of his way” to show he thinks gay people are “sick.”