Figure skater Adam Rippon and skier Gus Kenworthy are the very first openly gay U.S. athletes to qualify for the Winter Olympics


Figure skater Adam Rippon and skier Gus Kenworthy made history on Friday as the two first openly gay U.S. athletes to qualify for the Winter Olympics. And the significance of marching with the massive Team USA at the opening ceremony in PyeongChang isn’t lost on the Olympians.

“Tonight I walked in the #OpeningCeremony and got to watch my old friend @Yunaaaa light the Olympic flame,” Rippon, 28, wrote alongside a Twitter photo of himself with 26-year-old Kenworthy.

“Representing the USA is one of the greatest honors of my life and being able to do it as my authentic self makes it all so much sweeter.”

The pals shared several Twitter shots of themselves at the ceremony, embracing and sporting smiles. Kenworthy even planted a kiss on Rippon’s cheek.

Adam Rippon (left) and Gus Kenworthy
| Credit: Gus Kentworthy/Twitter

“We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it,” Kenworthy tweeted after the event.

Ahead of the Games, Kenworthy told PEOPLE that he and Rippon connected over social media after Kenworthy reached out on Instagram to congratulate Rippon on being named to Team USA. Kenworthy said that he and Rippon became “fast friends” and were looking forward to meeting in South Korea.

“We’ve been messaging and exchanging well-wishes and good luck, and we’re excited to hang out and kiki in Korea,” Kenworthy says. (Kiki — for the uninitiated — means, basically, to party.)

With Kenworthy being a returning silver medalist, and Rippon a first-time Olympian, the men have a lot to discuss as they start in on the fierce competition at the Games.

“I’m one of the oldest figure skaters competing now in the world on the Olympic level. I think in the past that would’ve discouraged me, but it kind of really motivates me because it’s different and I love to be different,” Rippon told PEOPLE in the months leading up to the Olympics.

“I love to have my own story, my own path and forge ahead because my career isn’t going to be like anyone else’s.”

Rippon, who publicly came out as gay in 2015, was named to the 2018 U.S. Olympic team in December and celebrated the historic moment by posting two Instagram photos of himself along with several emojis.

“You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?” Rippon told USA Today. “I’m not buying it.” (A rep for Pence told PEOPLE at the time that the vice president does not and has never supported conversion therapy.)

Kenworthy, too, had strong words for Pence, who led the American delegation at the Olympics. Ahead of the Games, Kenworthy joked that maybe he will “make out with his boyfriend in front of” Pence.

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“In 2018, with how accepting the world is and should be and is getting, I think having him lead the delegation seems backward,” Kenworthy said.

Kenworthy was closeted when he competed at the Russia Olympics in 2014, but came out in October 2015 on the cover of ESPN the Magazine.

“I have the LGBT audience behind me and there’s all these people that I want to make proud, and I want to do well aside from just myself. And so I feel like I’ve got a little bit more on my shoulders,” Kenworthy told PEOPLE last fall. “But I also think that I do well under pressure, so I’m hoping that that is a good thing for me.”

Recently, Kenworthy said that while he is “really proud to represent the U.S.,” he also “feels so proud to be out this time.”

“I think I’m competing for the LGBT community just as much,” he told PEOPLE.

The 2018 Winter Olympics began on Thursday and continue through Feb. 25.