Olympic Figure Skater Adam Rippon on How Martin Garrix, Coldplay & Queen Helped Him Go For the Gold

Adam Rippon
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Adam Rippon poses for a portrait at the 2017 Team USA Media Summit on Sept. 25, 2017 in Park City, Utah.

At 28, Adam Rippon is about to take to the ice for his first Winter Olympics -- which in some Olympic competitions is practically retirement age. But as the 2016 U.S. national champion from Scranton, Pennsylvania, is poised to be the first openly gay American athlete to qualify for a Winter Olympics gets ready to show the world what he has in Pyeongchang, South Korea, he says one of the things he has to thank for making it to his dream competition is music.

Rippon -- who was born with severe hearing loss and underwent surgery before his first birthday to correct the issue -- will be one of the most exciting and entertaining skaters to watch when the competition on the ice kicks off Feb. 15 with the Men's Short Program. He'll be skating after becoming the first man to win back-to-back world junior championship titles in 2008 and 2009, only to finish eighth at nationals in 2014. His journey took another detour while prepping to defend his 2016 U.S. national title when he broke his foot and had to sit that one out. But after training as hard as ever during a 12-week recovery, Rippon was back in the mix after finishing fourth at the 2018 nationals.

Before he left for Pyeongchang, Billboard spoke to Rippon about how he chooses music for his programs and how the major changes introduced into skating four years ago opened up a new world for his artistry.

The rule change in 2015 allowing skaters to perform to songs with vocals seems to have made a huge difference. Not everyone is skating to "Swan Lake," "Carmen" and the same old warhorses we got so tired of hearing. Now you're hearing Elvis, songs from Hamilton, Christina Aguilera... do you think skating has become more exciting because of that change?