No Olympian‘s journey to the Games comes without its obstacles, but the unwavering support of athletes’ mothers may be just the push many need to get them through a tough run.
To mark the 100-day countdown to the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, past and present Olympians, including Kenworthy and Jones, partnered with Procter & Gamble to produce a powerful film, Love Over Bias, highlighting a mother’s role in an athlete’s Olympic journey that’s almost guaranteed to bring on the waterworks.
The film is an extension of the brand’s “Thank You, Mom” campaign and follows six aspiring Olympians who overcome a host of hurdles with the help of their mothers. The ad was inspired by the real-life struggles of Olympians like Kenworthy and Jones.
“If everyone saw each other through a mother’s pair of eyes, the way that my mom sees me or another mother sees her child, I think the world would be a much better place,” Kenworthy tells Yahoo Lifestyle. As one of the first openly gay men in action sports, Kenworthy had prejudices of his own to fight on his journey to the Olympics.
“Before I came out, there was no way of knowing how the culture would be around it, but I definitely thought the culture was going to be very unaccepting and kind of cold to it. The language people used and the way people acted made me feel that it was quite homophobic.” Instead, the now 26-year-old was surprised by how accepting the skiing community was. “When I actually did come out, the reception that I got was amazing. People were so supportive and loving. I’ve seen a noticeable change in the things that people say, the language people use, people catching themselves using gay in the wrong way and correcting themselves, and it’s nice.”
Ultimately, Kenworthy found the courage to come out thanks to a piece of advice from his mother: “When I actually was wanting to come out publicly, she told me that there’s always going to be haters and naysayers, but you can’t buy into them because the people that don’t stand by you are the people that aren’t important. You don’t need them in your life. And the ones that love you and care about you will be there no matter what.”
He continues, “I think I would tell my younger self that it gets better. … I’d let him know that people are actually going to love me for the things that I thought they were not going to love me for.”
For Kehri Jones, who never gave up on her Olympic dream, even after being told what she could or couldn’t achieve based on her race, mom’s guidance was a key part of staying true to herself. “The best piece of advice [my mom ever gave me] is to not say anything at all when you’re angry,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “She definitely let me know that when you say things that you don’t mean, people keep that, and words are really strong. So if you’re feeling like you’re at that point, she always tells me to take a step back, regroup, and then come back to the situation if need be.”
When it comes to overcoming racial prejudice, Jones knows there’s a long way to go, and she wants to be part of the conversation. “I think that some people don’t think that it’s a problem,” she says. “I’m very grateful that we do have people to advocate for us, and if I do have the chance to have my voice heard, I will definitely speak out about it because I feel very strongly since it’s my demographic that has this bias against them.”
For Jones, Mom is her confidante and her keeper. “She’s always there, even when I feel like I can’t talk to my teammates or I’m about to have a breakdown,” she says. “I know that I can talk to my mom to get me through any situation.”
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