STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Hig Roberts, a decorated Alpine skier, has come out as gay.
The two-time U.S. national champion joins a small group of LGBTQ skiers who have come out publicly in a sport that The New York Times describes as “closed and clubby.” That includes freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy, who revealed he is gay on ESPN in 2015.
This makes the 29-year-old the first current or former male Alpine skier of his caliber to come out publicly in Alpine skiing, The Times reports.
In an interview with The Times, Roberts said Alpine skiing has a hyper-masculine vibe and he was pressured to conform. He said that eventually, not being able to be openly gay as a professional athlete was hindering his performance.
Roberts, who grew up in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, retired from skiing in March 2019 and moved to Norway to work in finance, but has since moved back to the U.S.
He told The Times that he decided to come out in part to inspire young skiers and to let them know they can compete at the highest levels no matter their sexuality.
Throughout his career, Roberts made 31 World Cup starts, competed for the U.S. Ski team and won two national titles. He never got the opportunity to compete in the Olympics, but he was the first alternate in the 2018 Pyeongchang, according to Out Magazine.
Still, Roberts told the magazine that he hopes to get involved with Olympic athletes in the future to foster spaces where athletes are comfortable to be themselves, while still working to be the best in their sports.