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Gus Kenworthy combats concussion, COVID before final events of freestyle skiing career

Dew Tour Copper Mountain 2020 - Day 4

COPPER MOUNTAIN, COLORADO - FEBRUARY 09: Gus Kenworthy of Great Britain reacts on after completing a run in the Men’s Ski Modified Superpipe Presented by Toyota during the Dew Tour Copper Mountain 2020 on February 09, 2020 in Copper Mountain, Colorado. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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Gus Kenworthy‘s run-up to his third and final Olympics has been challenging, and that’s an understatement.

Kenworthy, who in 2019 announced a switch from the U.S. to Great Britain, hopes to complete a competition for the first time in a year at this week’s Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

Kenworthy, 30, said Tuesday that his next two events will be the last two of his career -- the X Games, where he hopes to fulfill a dream of winning a gold medal, and the Beijing Olympics. The British federation is expected to name its Olympic roster on Friday.

Kenworthy was part of a U.S. podium sweep in the first Olympic men’s ski slopestyle competition in 2014, taking silver between Joss Christensen and Nick Goepper.

After coming out in 2015, he was one of the most followed athletes going into the PyeongChang Games, where he placed 12th in the 12-man ski slopestyle final coming off injuries. He broke his right thumb three days before the competition and had six vials of blood drained from a hip hematoma two days before it.

In announcing his switch to Great Britain, his birth nation, Kenworthy said he was going to focus on halfpipe going toward Beijing.

In late October, Kenworthy suffered what he called a pretty bad concussion at a training camp in Switzerland, the latest in a string of head injuries in recent years.

Two weeks later, he started feeling very ill and tested positive for the coronavirus (while fully vaccinated). He felt “completely wiped out” while quarantined in a hotel for 10 days before flying home.

He went to compete for the first time this season on Dec. 8, but said he got lost in the air doing his first trick in the halfpipe -- “the skiing equivalent to the ‘twisties,’” he posted -- and withdrew. Kenworthy hasn’t competed since.

On Dec. 12, Kenworthy posted that he was still experiencing head issues -- becoming light-headed, disoriented and nauseous when he got his heart rate up. After consulting with specialists, he believed they were residual effects of the virus rather than the concussion.

“There was a moment where I was nervous that, even having my Olympic spot, I might not be able to do it, because at that moment, I really couldn’t ski,” Kenworthy said.

But medication has helped, and he trained in Copper Mountain, Colorado, over the last two weeks.

“I have done all of the tricks that I need to do in my run now,” said Kenworthy, who owns seven medals among the Olympics, world championships and X Games, but no gold. “I haven’t put it all together, but I’m feeling pretty good. I’m feeling more confident. I don’t know if I feel 100 percent, but I feel like 90 percent, and if there’s ever a time to give it my all, it’s right now because X Games is really the near-and-dear event to my heart.”

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