Before free skier Gus Kenworthy hit the Pyeongchang slopes at the 2018 Winter Olympics, he made a visit to E!’s Hollywood Medium with Tyler Henry where he broke down in tears recalling the death of his best friend Brooks “Hoot” Brown.
Brown died in March 2006 while at a sunset photoshoot at Colorado’s Telluride Ski Resort after falling sideways off the back of a snowcat snow-grooming machine and getting caught in the tracks. He was just 16.
Kenworthy, 26, was by his friend’s side at the time along with two of their other friends. The pals has piled on the back of the snowcat to get to the top of the mountain, which was closed at the time.
The tragic loss left Kenworthy questioning whether he wanted to continue with skiing.
“I didn’t think I wanted to continue skiing after Hoot passed away,” Kenworthy told Henry in a video of their sit-down posted Saturday. “I lost my best friend, like I just felt depressed and kinda like from that, decided to rise up and really continue with the things that I loved previously because I loved them and the things that he loved and if anything, try to put more emphasis on them to make a life out of them.”
Things were made more complicated as Kenworthy, who is openly gay, had just understood his own sexual orientation and had not yet come out. He felt so guilty about being gay, he wished he had been the one to die, he said.
“I know for myself, especially I was in the closet at the time, I mean hadn’t told anybody that I was gay. And when Hoot passed away, I remember wishing and feeling like had it been me that died instead,” Kenworthy said. “Everyone would have just remembered me in this great way and no one would have ever had to know this secret, that I thought was like a dark secret. So I think I felt guilt that he had died and not me and he didn’t deserve to and I did..”
Henry helped Kenworthy feel free from that guilt, telling the Olympian he made the right choice in continuing to pursue his dreams.
“He’s so proud of you in all that you’ve been able to do,” Henry said. “He’s book closing and you’re book opening.”
“Just so much appreciation, so much appreciation and what’s so interesting is he’s showing the symbology of handing you a torch and you’re taking the torch and you’re running with it,” Henry added. “And I feel like this is his time now to give you that torch and to help be with you and he is.”
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Kenworthy wiped away tears.
“I’ve wanted to hear some of those things for 12 years,” the Olympic silver medalist said. “He was a huge part of my life. When I was kid he was one of my best friends. We had the same dreams and ambitions. Since he passed, even though I was young, I did make it my life’s mission for skiing to do it in a big way in his honor and not let it be something like he did it in vein.”
Hollywood Medium With Tyler Henry premiers Feb. 28 (9 p.m. ET) on E!