Adam Rippon’s Rihanna Routine You Won’t See at Olympics Gala Featured His Own Cover of ‘Diamonds’ (Exclusive)
By Shana Naomi Krochmal
Marianna Massey/Getty Images
The Olympics only left us wanting more of “America’s Sweetheart” Adam Rippon -- but we’re going to have to wait a little longer for an encore.
Despite becoming the breakout U.S. star of the 2018 Olympics, the figure skater was not chosen to perform in Sunday’s closing exhibition program -- which means his many new and loyal fans won’t be seeing what sounds like a show-stopping performance Rippon had prepared in hopes he’d be included.
And what a performance it would have been.
His choreographer Benji Schwimmer tells ET exclusively that the bonus program was designed as a sequel to Rippon’s dramatic free skate we saw in the team competition and for his long program, set to Coldplay’s “O” and the Cinematic Orchestra’s “Arrival of the Birds.”
Rippon had previously done a short program using a cover of Rihanna’s “Diamonds,” sung by Josef Salvat and choreographed by Schwimmer -- last year, at the exhibition following the Grand Prix Final in Japan, he even belted out the song and then skated to it, a performance that went viral after Rippon became everyone’s favorite new figure skater this month.
Though he ultimately decided on a different short routine in Pyeongchang, the plan for this closing gala encore was to combine the best of both worlds. It featured new choreography by Schwimmer and Rippon had professionally recorded his own cover of “Diamonds” to skate to.
“Adam’s singing is amazing,” Schwimmer says, who was unsure when Rippon first suggested the idea. “Everyone thinks they can audition for American Idol when they’re in the shower,” he says with a laugh. But he promises the end result, which they continued to hone and craft from those earliest versions, was altogether impressive.
“Adam’s piece is gorgeous,” Schwimmer says. “People are missing out. This is probably Adam’s best movement. It was just about being empowered, realizing there’s so much beauty the moment you embrace who you are. It’s about Adam not needing to be in any flock or follow any norms, just learning to love to fly in his own space.”
Rippon, who placed 10th overall for men’s skating, seemed a lock for the gala event, as other popular competitors often participate even if they don’t medal. The program, announced early Saturday morning, also lacks fan favorite Mirai Nagasu. Bronze-winning American ice dancers Alex and Maia Shibutani will be featured, plus their runner-up teammates Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue.
“It’s really unfortunate that the Olympics didn’t showcase Adam, especially after Sochi,” Schwimmer says, “where so many athletes were told not to come out and be themselves. You can look at people like us, people who were closeted for the better parts of our careers, that we are like diamonds in the sky, and we can celebrate that.”
Schwimmer, who won the second season of FOX’s So You Think You Can Dance, first met Rippon while working as a choreographer for skater Jeremy Abbott as he trained for the Sochi Olympics.
“I felt immediately connected to Adam because I saw a lot of my younger self in him,” Schwimmer says. “We invited him over to Jeremy’s apartment that night and we all ended up watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. That was our subtle way of saying it’s okay.”
Benji’s sister, Lacey Schwimmer, is also a dancer who’s often appeared as a pro on Dancing with the Stars. In 2011, she was paired with Chaz Bono, who is transgender, and Benji is hoping the ABC show might consider taking a chance on another groundbreaking pairing: him and Rippon, who would be the show’s first same-sex couple ever. “I think it would be pretty damn awesome,” Schwimmer says.