Adam Rippon – whose friends call him “Ripp” – was the 2016 national champion and planned to defend his title at the 2017 championships, but broke his foot and was forced to withdraw. But, he says that’s the best thing that has ever happened to him: he immediately thought he could not only come back but now be better than ever. “Everybody better watch out,” he says with a wink.
Figure skating beginnings
Rippon was born Nov. 11, 1989 in Scranton, Pennsylvania and is the oldest of six children. He was born with an eye infection and an 80 percent hearing loss. Before his first birthday, both were corrected. He also survived a severe respiratory condition and his appendix burst at age 5.
He calls himself a late bloomer in the sport. He didn’t like skating when he started at age 10, but figure skating grew on him.
Major competitions/ medals
Rippon won the 2008 and 2009 world junior championship gold medals, and planned on using that momentum to land on the 2010 Olympic team. He finished fifth at the 2010 Nationals and did not go to Vancouver; instead, he went to the Four Continents Championships and came away with the gold medal.
At national championships throughout the Sochi quadrennial, Rippon finished 5th (2011), 4th (2012), 5th (2013) and 8th (2014), an all-time low. Again, he missed out an Olympic team.
In the four years leading to PyeongChang, Rippon has proved to be much stronger. He earned a silver medal at the 2015 Nationals and capped that season with an eighth place finish at the world championships. In 2016, he won his first national title and placed sixth at the world championships on home ice in Boston.
He qualified for the exclusive Grand Prix Final in December 2016, and was a favorite to land on the podium again at the January 2017 Nationals. But then, he broke his foot at practice and was forced to withdraw. He saw it as a chance to reinvent himself before beginning the Olympic season.
Though Rippon won two junior world championships titles in 2008 and 2009 and the 2010 Four Continents gold medal, he says the breakthrough moment in his career was winning the 2016 U.S. title.
“I’ve had other breakthrough moments, but this was different,” he says. “It felt like all my hard work had been validated. All the sacrifices my mom and family had made had been worth it. Winning that title gave me the confidence that to really know that your dreams can come true.”
Rippon is the only man to win back-to-back to win World Junior titles, which he did in 2008 and 2009.
The “Rippon Lutz” – a Lutz completed with two arms raised above the head – is his namesake and specialty.
“It was a time where a lot of quads weren’t being done so a lot of men were doing the same triples. I wanted to do something that would set me apart. 1988 Olympic Champion Brian Boitano was famous for doing a Lutz with one arm over his head. And I wanted to build on that,” Rippon explains.
“Adam Rippon is not only my training mate, but my soulmate. We have been best friends since we met years ago and he is my absolute rock in this sport and life.” – 2014 Olympian, Ashley Wagner
“I’m like a witch and you can’t kill me. I keep coming back every year, and every year I get better,” Rippon told NBC’s Andrea Joyce after winning the 2016 national title.
Rippon would make his Olympic debut in PyeongChang.
Outside the rink
In October 2015, Rippon came out as gay in SKATING magazine, though he doesn’t let it define him. “I want to be a relatable example,” he says, revealing that he thought about coming out before the Sochi Games. “Being gay is not something that defines me. What defines me is what my mom always taught me: to treat everyone with respect, to always be a hard worker and to be kind.”
Rippon lives in Los Angeles, which he says contributes to his supplementary training outside the rink. “When I am home in LA, I love to stop by a yoga class or Soul Cycle session. There is nothing like doing some cycling in the dark to club music and candle light.”