As the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi approaches the midpoint of competition, Team USA is far off its record haul of 37 medals from 2010. Yet despite huge disappointments from medal contenders such as Shaun White, Shani Davis, Hannah Teter and Bode Davis, there will always be a great story about one of its team members.
Gus Kenworthy is not a household name like Shaun White or Bode Davis, but the Olympic skier from Telluride, Colorado, is getting widespread praise for finding a home for stray dogs, often described as friendly and approachable by the media and certainly not the threat Russian officials have argued.
In advance of the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Russian officials hired a Sochi pest control company to kill the estimated 2,0000 dogs roaming the streets of Sochi. Not surprisingly, the official announcement prompted international outrage and became just another one of the criticisms of the Winter Olympics, amid suspicions of corruption, inadequate housing for visitors and over expenditures. Hundreds of stray dogs have already been killed, with local authorities insisting some were biting children and were described as wild and dangerous.
Some animals rights activists have taken dogs into their own homes, but it was through Volnoe Delo, a charitable organzation led by Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who has made the largest contribution. Deripask, CEO of the world’s largest aluminum company funded an animal shelter in a community near Sochi and has a number of volunteers on hand to prevent Russian authorities from shooting or poisoning the dogs. Still, even with this humane effort, not every animal can or will be saved.
Of course Team USA became well aware of the stray dog situation in Sochi, especially the 21-year-old Kenworthy. Yesterday, he posted two photos on his Twitter profile that might end up as one of the most memorable images from the Winter Olympics, perhaps even more famous than Ashley Wagner’s reaction after her superb Team Ladies Short Program ice skating performance.
Kenworthy's first tweet went simply like this
"Oh my glob, look who I just found :) #sochistrays"
sharing the photo with a young puppy who, not altogether surprisingly, seemed sad. His second photo showed him with four puppies, with him tweeting
“puppy love is real to puppies”
His two tweets prompted more than 1,600 retweets and 3,1000 favorites thus far, along with international attention and a lot more Twitter followers. He also posted up additional photos on his Facebook page, with more than 2,100 liking the post and presumably a lot more to follow in the coming days. In fact, his Twitter following is already showing a noticeable change in mere minutes.
Earlier today, Gus Kenworthy tweeted information that he lined up kennels for all four the puppies and made vaccination appointments, before signing off with “Doing all I can to bring them home w/ me!”, suggesting he won't be coming home without any prizes.
Kenworthy may not come home with an Olympic gold medal, but it appears he’ll still be coming home a winner.
Update: Gus Kenworthy won a silver medal on Thursday, saying "it feels as good as gold ;)" - it would be hard to disagree with that. Additionally, in less than 24 hours, Kenworthy has gained 20,0000 new Twitter followers, nearly doubling his total from yesterday.