The 2018 Winter Olympics are just around the corner. The opening ceremonies will take place in PyeongChang, South Korea on Friday, and some events have already started. Team USA is comprised of 242 athletes this time around, two of whom are the very first openly gay athletes to compete for the United States in the Winter Olympics. Their names are Gus Kenworthy and Adam Rippon, and both of them have already called out the Vice President Mike Pence 鈥 who has been chosen to lead the White House delegation to the Olympic games 鈥 for his anti-LGBTQ+ statements and policies.

Rippon has been in the headlines a lot in recent weeks, and has a bit of a feud going with the vice president.

Rippon is a 28-year-old from Scranton, Pennsylvania (yes, the same town as The Office) and publicly came out as gay in 2015. In an interview with SKATING magazine in October 2015, Rippon said, 鈥淏eing gay is not something that defines me. What defines me is what my mom always taught me: to treat everyone with respect, to always be a hard worker and to be kind. Those are the things that define me.鈥

Rippon added that he wants to be a 鈥渞elatable example鈥 for others: 鈥淲hen athletes come out and say that they鈥檙e gay, it makes it a little more normal and less of a big deal鈥攅specially in the athletic community.鈥

Rippon made his sexual orientation public about a year after the 2014 Sochi, Russia Winter Games. Russia had recently passed anti-gay 鈥減ropaganda鈥 laws that empowered the government to jail gay people just for being gay. According to Them, Rippon didn鈥檛 speak out about the issue at the time (he didn鈥檛 make the Olympic team that year), but his training partner, Ashley Wagner, spoke out in opposition to the homophobic laws.

But this time around, Rippon is on the team and has been vocal in his opposition to homophobia. Which brings us to Vice President Mike Pence.

Mike Pence has been notoriously anti-LGBTQ+ throughout his political career. In 2006, Pence said in a speech that 鈥渟ocietal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family,鈥 and that being gay is a 鈥渃hoice.鈥 As governor of Indiana, Pence supported the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which allows businesses to refuse to service LGBTQ+ people based on 鈥渞eligious freedom.鈥 He has also supported so-called gay conversion therapy, a thoroughly debunked pseudo-psychology aimed at turning gay people straight.

Pence denies that he ever supported gay conversion therapy, despite having once said that 鈥渞esources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.鈥

In a January interview with USA Today, Rippon sounded off on Pence being selected to lead the US Olympic delegation: 鈥淵ou mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?鈥 Rippon also said he doesn鈥檛 think Pence 鈥渉as a real concept of reality鈥 where LGBTQ+ issues are concerned, and quipped that Pence鈥檚 homophobic views mean he鈥檚 not a true Christian.

鈥淭o stand by some of the things that Donald Trump has said and for Mike Pence to say he鈥檚 a devout Christian man is completely contradictory,鈥 Rippon said. 鈥淚f he鈥檚 okay with what鈥檚 being said about people and Americans and foreigners and about different countries that are being called 鈥榮hitholes,鈥 I think he should really go to church.鈥

A spokesperson for Pence told USA Today that 鈥渄espite these misinformed claims [about conversion therapy], the vice president will be enthusiastically supporting all the US athletes competing next month in Pyeongchang.鈥

This week, USA Today reported that Pence reached out to the Olympic Committee in an attempt to set up a meeting with Rippon following his criticisms of the vice president. Pence also sent out a pair of tweets from his official vice presidential Twitter account, calling the accusations that he supported conversion therapy 鈥渇ake news鈥 and stated that he supports 鈥淎LL鈥 of Team USA鈥檚 athletes.

News outlets are speculating whether the athlete and Vice President will meet up to talk things out in PyeongChang. USA Today reported Wednesday that Rippon had turned down a meeting with Pence. But in his January interview with USA Today, Rippon said: 鈥淚f I had the chance to meet [Pence] afterwards, after I鈥檓 finished competing, there might be a possibility to have an open conversation.鈥 He echoed this statement in comments he made to reporters today when he refused to confirm or deny he鈥檇 turned down a meeting with Pence, but said: 鈥淎fter the competition, I鈥檓 open to meeting him and having an open conversation, but opening ceremonies are tomorrow and I鈥檝e been really focused.鈥

Meanwhile, Rippon has been getting support from some more progressive famous fans. This week Reese Witherspoon Tweeted that Rippon is 鈥淩eason #1 to watch鈥 the Winter Olympics. Rippon responded with a re-tweet that reads, 鈥淲HEN YOU鈥橰E RIGHT, YOU鈥橰E RIGHT.鈥

Gus Kenworthy has also called Pence out, but hasn鈥檛 received as much attention from the press or the VP. Kenworthy is a 26-year-old freeskier who was born in the United Kingdom. In an appearance on Ellen earlier this week. Kenworthy told Ellen DeGeneres, 鈥淭o have someone leading the delegation that鈥檚 directly attacked the LGBT community鈥 seems like a bad fit.鈥 The skier added that he feels 鈥渓ike the Olympics is all about inclusion and people coming together, and it seems like it鈥檚 not really doing that.鈥 DeGeneres agreed that Pence was a 鈥渨eird choice.鈥

At the moment, both athletes seem intent on focusing on the big competitions ahead, and want to put Mike Pence on the back burner for now. Perhaps after the Games, Rippon will have a conversation with Pence, but it鈥檚 clear that neither Rippon or Kenworthy want Pence with them for the Olympics.

What do you think of Mike Pence being chosen to lead the US delegation at the 2018 Winter Olympics? Tell us on Twitter @BritandCo.

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty)