Imagine you spent your entire life perfecting a skill. You become so good that you’re invited to a global competition to compete against others who have similarly worked hard to get there. Now imagine all of it not meaning a damn thing because you used your platform self-aggrandize something completely meaningless like your sexuality or political preferences.

That’s exactly what Olympian Adam Rippon, the U.S. male figure skater did.

See, Adam Rippon wants you to know he’s gay, and because he’s gay he’s angry with vice-President Mike Pence who supposedly hates gay people. Of course, Pence hates them so much that he publicly cheered them on, despite Rippon and Gus Kenworthy — the other guy who really wants you to know he’s gay — continually bashing Pence to the delight of the media.

I’ve written previously about how both Rippon and Kenworthy need to get over the fact that they’re gay, and that their identity politics are not what we, or they, are in Pyeongchang for. Rippon may have come to the realization that Pence’s shadow has fallen on every action he takes at the Olympics. Now he seems to want to back away from the Pence controversy.

“I don’t want my Olympic experience being about Mike Pence,” he said, according to CNN.
“I have no problem about what I’ve said because I stand by it, but I think right now the Olympics are about Olympic competition,” Rippon continued.

But it’s too late now. The media’s obsession with getting a gay Olympian’s anger at a Republican leader on paper, and Rippon’s eagerness to indulge in political commentary is now what we’re going to remember about Rippon. His willingness to plant his foot firmly into the realm of political commentary and LGBT activism has now made his Olympic level skills and use of them in competition secondary.

In short, vice-President Mike Pence is now the focus of Olympian Adam Rippon.

I heard briefly that Rippon gave a great performance, but was cheated out of the gold over two other performers who fell during their performances. That sucks, and I wish Rippon wasn’t ripped off. However, the majority of the Rippon related news I’ve seen is squarely about his defiance of Pence, and about how he dislikes Pence because he supports “gay conversion therapy” (he doesn’t), and how he won’t be going to the White House to meet Pence, but instead will hold an LGBT event in defiance of it.

Pence’s shadow will follow Rippon wherever he goes now.

Identity politics is an all-encompassing kind of politics. In today’s political climate, you’re either an Olympic skater who happens to be gay, or you’re a gay activist who happens to skate. One of those requires a lifetime of dedication and training that can lead you to a lifetime of glory and a kind of life that becomes inspirational to millions both inside and out of your identity group. The other is something anybody can be at the drop of a hat that really just rewards you with angry, polarized followers.

Rippon chose the latter, and unless he lightens up with the political commentary and spewing his dislike of Pence every time a microphone is put in his face, that’s where he’ll stay.