Skier Gus Kenworthy Is Ready for His 'Swan Song' at the Beijing Winter Olympics
Gus Kenworthy is getting ready for his "third and final Olympics" — with no hesitation about the "final" part of it.
The skier, who won Olympic silver for Team USA in slopestyle back in 2014, will, pending qualification, compete for Great Britain next Febuary when the Winter Games are held in Beijing, China. Yes, Great Britain — after two Games, he's opted to use his dual citizenship (his mother is British) to ski for the U.K.
"It's so soon, it's actually crazy. This has been really motivating for me, so I feel like this put me in a good head space going into it," he tells PEOPLE in Tokyo, where he's been working for NBC to cover the ongoing Summer Olympics.
Finishing his competitive skiing career in 2022 wasn't always the plan. He admits now that he was "contemplating being done" with the sport back in 2018, when he competed in Pyeongchang and finished in a disappointing 12th while grappling with an injury.
"They say you're only as good as last performance, and so sometimes it's hard to walk away if you didn't have the performance that you think you did," Kenworthy tells PEOPLE. "Obviously that saying's not true, and every athlete's career is a series of highs and lows, and they're not summed up to one moment."
But, he says, had he medaled in South Korea, "I probably wouldn't have been trying to go for a third Olympics, but because I didn't have that performance, it fueled something in me. And I was like, 'Okay, now I've got more in the tank.' So I'm giving it my all."
And he's secure in this upcoming Games being his "swan song": "I'm excited to kind of give it one more, and do the best I can. And it would be incredible to medal, but I'm just looking forward to having a good performance and then getting to walk away with my head held high."
The decision was an easy one, as he's chosen to reflect on all that skiing has given him: friends, travel experiences, the chance to compete on the world stage and inspire other LGBTQ+ athletes to perform as their true selves. (Kenworthy was one of the first openly gay athletes to compete for Team USA at a Winter Games.)
"I think that this time around in my third Games, I feel like I have the wisdom, and the experience, and the know-how, and I feel like I can look at it in a different way. And it's been nice to have the perspective," the 29-year-old tells PEOPLE. And, he's looking forward to trying different things — like hosting and doing more media work.
He got the chance on Thursday night, speaking on a panel for Proctor & Gamble's Athletes for Good Fund alongside former gymnast Nastia Liukin and recent Team USA silver medalist swimmer Erica Sullivan, among others.
"Procter & Gamble is just giving a ton of money to various charities that athletes are championing," Kenworthy explains. "So, it's causes that are near and dear to individual athletes' hearts, and Procter & Gamble gets behind them and helps uplift those athletes, and also the charities that they support."
It isn't lost on Kenworthy that he's gotten to experience both sides of the Games — as an athlete, and now, as a viewer.
"It feels very special," he says. "I feel truly blessed and honored to get to experience the Games like this."
To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.
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