US: The Bittersweet Beauty of Adam Rippon

Richard Lawson is a columnist for Vanity Fair's Hollywood, reviewing film and television and covering entertainment news and gossip. He lives in New York City.

I fell in love with the Olympics, particularly with figure skating, when I was eight years old. It was 1992, and from faraway Albertville, France, I was introduced to Kristi Yamaguchi and Nancy Kerrigan, two American ice princesses who both medaled that year, capturing the hearts of millions and burrowing into my consciousness like perhaps nothing but The Little Mermaid had up to that point.

My 10-year-old sister was into it too, but not quite in the same ardent way. Luckily, I had a friend, a best friend, really—I’ll call him Ryan—who understood what it all meant to me, because it meant as much to him. We spent what I remember being a whole winter deciding which skater was our favorite (only the women, never the men; even at that age, there was something perhaps too intriguing about them) and gliding around on his hardwood living-room floor in our socks—pretending to do triple axels and salchows, awkwardly mimicking Kerrigan’s beguiling spins—two silly little boys with an appreciation for the graceful things in this rough world.

By the time the Lillehammer games in 1994 arrived (how spoiled we were to have them only two years apart!), with all their Tonya Harding drama, Ryan and I had drifted apart, as is the natural downward arc of a friendship when you don’t go to the same school or live in the same town. Ours, I always supposed, had just been a friendship of convenience, until it wasn’t. What remained was my love of Olympic figure skating, and I watched rapt every four years. My freshman year of college, my new friends (all girls) thought I was insane—but also maybe a little fun—when I cried bitter tears at Michelle Kwan’s gorgeous “Fields of Gold” exhibition skate, after she’d finished a disappointing third. Over the years, Olympic ice skating offered me an outlet for big feelings, in the way other sports might do for other men, I suppose. Read more via Vanity Fair