MIFFLINBURG — A sense of pride is flowing through a local family with a direct connection to an Olympic athlete who helped lift the U.S. team to the bronze medal in Sunday’s Team Figure Skating Finals.
Thom Rippon, his son Jason and brother Jim own nine McDonald’s franchise locations in Central Pennsylvania.
Thom lives in the Mifflinburg area and is the cousin of Rick Rippon — whose 28-year-old son Adam Rippon is making headlines around the world as a member of the U.S. Olympic figure skating team.
Thom has not seen Adam in a number of years since Adam has been focused on training for his career as a skater. Thom is in close contact with Rick, who lives in Clarks Summit.
“It’s very common for me to know when Adam is competing at a national or international event,” Thom said.
Although he is not in South Korea, Thom said Rick attends most of Adam’s competitions.
Thom often texts well wishes to Rick just before Adam takes the ice.
“That’s a tradition between Rick and me,” Thom said. “Occasionally, like on Adam’s birthday, I’ll send him a birthday wish on Facebook or by email.”
Since the start of the Olympics, Thom has been sending links of stories he finds online about Adam to family members, including Rick.
“I hear back immediately from Rick,” Thom said. “He’s grateful… that the family is paying attention. It’s a generalized sense of gratitude that his son is a world-class competitor and that many in the family are following along.”
He said family pride now “exudes” due to Adam participating in his first Olympics.
“We’re tremendously enthusiastic about this opportunity for him, about his achievements and about his future,” Thom said.
He noted that Adam will also skate Thursday and Friday in individual competitions.
“There’s a lot of buzz in our family,” Thom said. “People are in touch with each other in a way that normally doesn’t happen.
“We’re a normal family excited about one person on the world stage,” he continued. “That brings a family together.”
Two years ago, Thom said Adam came out as a gay male athlete.
“That’s fine with everybody in the family,” Thom said.
He also touched on public commentary which has resulted after Adam declined a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence while he was in South Korea for the Olympic opening ceremonies.
Adam had reportedly previously criticized Pence for his rumored opposition to gay rights and conversion therapy.
“(Adam) needed to stay focused on his training when the vice president’s office reached out for a meeting,” Thom said. “I think the media spun that… (Adam) wanted to stay focused (on training).”
He believes people across the country are proud of Adam.
“People are happy and prideful of Adam’s athleticism, as well as his honesty and character,” Thom said. “He’s a good young man.”
In addition to helping lift the U.S. team to the bronze in South Korea, Adam has a history of winning medals in big competitions.
He won a gold in a Junior Grand Prix final held in 2008, back-to-back gold medals in 2008 and 2009 in World Junior Championships, and a gold in a the 2010 Four Continents Championships.