Adam Rippon Announces Retirement
Rippon writes an open letter to himself, confirming what was already expected.
The thing about the Olympics is that it is usually the thing that turns skaters into people famous in the world of skating to people famous in the world in general, but it often also proves the end of those people’s competitive careers.
Take Adam Rippon. Certainly everyone in skating knew who he was, and had for a decade, since he first won the junior national title back in 2008. He had a senior national title and a Four Continents title to his name as well. But these are not things that the mainstream of society looks at or cares about. Most people only watch skating once every four years, at the Olympics, and he’d never made that.
Finally, in 2018, he made it. By which time he’d also come out, which made him an object of interest immediately, and his beautiful skating and lovable personality easily did the rest. By the time the team event had ended-and gotten him his Olympic medal-he was the star of the Games. That he wasn’t even a contender in the individual event was of no consequence, especially once he skated beautifully there too. Everyone now just wants more of Adam Rippon.
But while there’ll be more in plenty of ways, there won’t be competitively. He was already old enough we knew we wouldn’t have him for much longer, and once he had the benefits of fame to reap, it really was over. He took time to think about it first, but now it’s official. Yesterday he announced his retirement, publically writing a letter to his younger self reflecting his emotional journey.
Struggling to Meet Potential
From the time he first popped up on the radar at the 2008 National Championships, Rippon was known to be a kid with potential. At the time, between Evan Lysacek, Johnny Weir, and Jeremy Abbott, there wasn’t room for him to break through immediately. He did well enough for himself, winning the World Junior Championships twice and the 2010 Four Continents Championships, which would actually be his only senior international win.
He was supposed to hit the top after that, with Lysacek and Weir both cleared out. But Rippon by his own admission put too much pressure on himself, and it took a huge toll on his next four years. He would have some spectacular skates, and some beautiful programs. But then things would go wrong again, and keep him out most of the biggest events. They did at 2014 Nationals, where he was very much in contention for the Olympics, but skated so badly he came in eighth. It was especially sad when he had one of his best free programs that year:
Finally Pulling It Together
In his letter, Rippon addresses his younger self when he was devastated in 2014, telling him his road goes up from there. It did. He skated better in 2015, and that fall, he came out, becoming only the third skater to do so during his career proper. And Rudy Galindo, like the first one who did, he followed it up by winning his first national title at an advanced age for it. By then, he was lagging too much behind the top of the field in technical content. But by the time he’d brought the audience to their feet at the 2016 World Championships (where he finished sixth), that almost didn’t matter anymore, because he was still one of the greatest things out on the ice:
Even when 2017 started with him breaking his foot, bringing his pre-Olympic season to a premature end, he took it in stride, saying he knew then he would fight back and make the Olympic team. Sure enough, he did, albeit with another bump or so in the road there. It even meant he kept the iconic Flight of the Birds/O program he’d used that season:
It was with this, combined with a more flamboyant short that also delighted audiences, that he finally showed himself to the world in Korea.
Already Off to a Good Start
Adam Rippon has now become a gay icon and role model, as well as an advocate. He’s also been making plenty of more fun media appearances. Right now, he’s judging the junior version of Dancing with the Stars, having stormed the all-athletes season last spring:
He’s made professional appearances on the ice, but it’s not likely we’ve seen the last of his performances. At least, we have to hope not. He’s long said he’s going to remain involved in the sport; we are simply waiting to see how.