After making history as the first openly gay man to ever qualify for the Winter Olympics as a Team USA competitor, figure skater Adam Rippon is hoping to inspire LGBTQ youth as he competes this year in South Korea. In an exclusive interview with Life & Style, the handsome athlete, 28, revealed why he is taking his newly minted role model status seriously.

“I like being a role model. I’m the oldest of six kids and so I always kind of feel like the older brother in a lot of situations. And I feel really powerful when I think that I’m a leader or I’m helping somebody. That’s what gives me a lot of inner strength,” the Pennsylvania native said. “And on the flip side of that, when I work hard and I’m on the ice and at the gym, I give 100 percent. And so I hope that my example is that you treat people the way you want to be treated and that you work really hard. And if you work hard, you can pretty much do anything.”

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(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Since news broke that Adam would be representing America at this year’s sports spectacle, countless LGBTQ kids have reached out to him via social media. He told Life & Style that “the messages have been overwhelming,” but he couldn’t be more thrilled that “my story has reached so many more people than I ever thought it would.”

He explained, “It’s amazing. Being gay was never a big deal for me. But it’s a big thing for a lot of people and I think it’s just important to be visible and out and show your experience. It’s a little part of who I am, but people still discriminate other LGBTQ people. It’s important to be out and it doesn’t really change anything. I got to the Olympics on my athletic achievements and now here I am. This is who I am. This is what I’m made of and I think it’s important to show that being gay is such a little part of that.”

Adam — who came out publicly in 2015 in an article in Skating Magazine — told Life & Style that he hopes to advocate for the LGBTQ community after the Olympics conclude on Feb. 25. “In a day and age where I can be out and myself and be open and competing for the United States at the Olympics, it’s huge because I’ll be marching alongside countries where they don’t have good track records on LGBTQ rights or they don’t view LGBTQ citizens as equals,” he said. “I want to get more involved in activism. I feel like when you’re helping other people, it gives you a lot of personal and inner strength. So I hope that me sharing my story can help a lot of people. After this, I would really like to channel that into making a difference.”

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