A Very Busy Adam Rippon Stopping In Hartford With 'Stars On Ice'

Adam Rippon is riding high. The figure skater just won a medal at the PyeongChang Winter Games. He’s traveling the country with “Stars on Ice,” which is coming to Hartford April 22. And he is one of the stars in the upcoming season of “Dancing With the Stars.”

As the first openly gay American man to win an Olympic medal, Rippon is the country’s newly minted LGBT icon. The handsome, stylish young skater won hearts and minds during the games by taking Vice President Mike Pence to task for his stand on LGBT rights.

However, in a recent phone interview, Rippon was thinking about someone else.

“I was so excited to meet Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He’s such a legend as an athlete and as a social activist,” Rippon said.

Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA legend, also is a contestant on “Dancing,” which has its 26th season premiere on April 30. The all-athlete season of the ABC-TV reality show also features Tonya Harding, Mirai Nagasu, Jamie Anderson, Arike Ogunbowale, Chris Mazdzer, Jennie Finch Daigle, Johnny Damon and Josh Norman.

Rippon also is crazy about his dance partner on the show. “Jenna Johnson is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met,” he said.

Life is a whirl for Rippon, a native of Scranton, Pa., since returning from South Korea, where he won a bronze medal in the team event.

“I am doing ‘Stars on Ice’ shows over the weekend. I train for ‘Dancing With the Stars’ during the week and do the show on Monday,” Rippon said. “I have other commitments, too, speaking engagements. In Washington, D.C., I’m speaking at the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and accepting an award.”

Rippon became a household name during the games even before his medal-winning performance because of his blunt criticism of Pence. When asked by USA Today if he wanted to meet Pence, who was tapped to lead the U.S. delegation in the opening ceremonies, Rippon responded: “The same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy? I’m not buying it.”

Pence’s camp fired back and a brief social-media war ensued, but the die was cast. Rippon was suddenly beloved, but in some circles, reviled.

“There’s a pushback. People say ‘stick to what you’re doing, stay in your own lane.’ I’ve just gotten terrible things written to me. It doesn’t bother me. The absolute majority of comments are positive,” Rippon said.

“I think what I’m saying is important. I believe in what I’m saying. … If there are people who want to hear what I have to say then I want to use the platform I’ve been given for good and to help make positive change in the world. I think if you get a little bit of celebrity and you do nothing with it then what’s the point?”

His focus these days, however, is on work and friends, not activism.

“I’m friends with everyone on the ‘Stars on Ice’ tour,” he said. Others on the tour this year are Maia Shibutani, Alex Shibutani, Meryl Davis, Charlie White, Madison Hubbell, Zachary Donohue, Nathan Chen, Bradie Tennell, Mirai Nagasu, Ashley Wagner, Jason Brown, Karen Chen and Vincent Zhou.

“I feel like I haven’t taken a day off since the Olympics. It feels kind of awesome. I‘m having a great time. It’s such a wild ride. I’m trying to enjoy every single second.”

2018 STARS ON ICE stops at the XL Center in Hartford on Sunday, April 22, at 4 p.m. Admission starts at $35. starsonice.com.

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