Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon discussed his career after leaving the ice and self-expression in skating at a virtual Berkeley Forum event Thursday.
In 2018, Rippon made history as the first openly gay U.S. athlete to earn a medal at the Winter Olympics, winning a bronze as part of the figure skating team event. As an advocate of LGBTQ+ rights, the author of a memoir, a “Dancing with the Stars” champion and a television producer, Rippon has made a name for himself both on and off the ice.
“All of the lessons I learned as a professional athlete translated into everything,” Rippon said during the event. “You just need to be able to work hard, focus, relax and just put your best foot forward. That’s how you succeed at anything.”
Rippon reflected on his retirement from skating after the Olympics, a “jarring” transition that left him searching for other career paths to pursue at age 28. Many of the job opportunities he eventually accepted were shaped by his love for making people laugh, with his current position as an executive producer of a comedy series for NBC being his “dream job.”
The challenge that came with his endeavors, however, was having to “redefine” hard work, according to Rippon. He said his writing projects caused him to experience mental exhaustion, making him realize that hard work was not confined to the physical exhaustion he was used to as an athlete.
Another opportunity Rippon pursued after leaving the ice was writing “Beautiful on the Outside: A Memoir,” a book that allowed him to share the ups and downs of his skating career.
“For a lot of people, the Olympics was the first time that they got to meet me,” Rippon said during the event. “They didn’t know me when I was a self-proclaimed failure. I wanted to share the negative experiences that I’ve had because all of them were why I made it to the Olympics.”
Upon discussing the future of figure skating, Rippon referenced a rule change in the sport from 2015 that allowed music with lyrics to be used in competition — a shift that, according to Rippon, gave athletes more opportunities for self-expression.
He also noted the push toward integrating dance elements into skating in recent years, with more professional dancers working with skaters as part of their competition preparations. This change has given skaters more opportunities to connect with others through music and movement.
The event concluded with Rippon sharing advice he would give to his younger self.
“Everyone’s so caught up in their own little world that they’re not paying attention,” Rippon said. “You should focus on yourself and enjoy your own experience.”