Olympian Gus Kenworthy Opens Up About His Time On Special Forces: World's Toughest Test - Exclusive Interview

Few have completed the classified tasks required to join the Special Forces. However, 16 celebrities have felt inspired to tackle what's been deemed the "world's toughest test" as the rest of the world watches comfortably from their couches.

FOX's new reality series "Special Forces: World's Toughest Test" pushes these stars far past their personal limits — including soaring through the sky, submerging in water, and finding themselves at the center of a fight — to test their physical and mental strengths over the course of 10 days. Among the 16 stars who have signed up for the challenge is freestyle skier and Olympic silver medalist Gus Kenworthy. Though he's become familiar with pushing himself through pain, appearing on this reality series is something he now says he could never have prepared himself for.

In an exclusive interview with Health Digest, Kenworthy told us "the most difficult" part of appearing on "Special Forces: World's Toughest Test," explained how the show changed his perspective, and shared how often he hits the slopes now that he's officially a retired Olympian.

What inspired him to appear on the reality show

What made you want to sign up for "Special Forces: World's Toughest Test"?

Honestly, I'm asking myself the same question. [Laughs] But it presented itself to me at a moment when the stars aligned for me to do it.

I had just finished my competitive skiing career in February, and I had told myself that I wanted to pursue a lot of different things and I was going to be open to opportunities as they presented themselves to me — because I didn't necessarily know what I was going to do, and when, and how, and was stepping into unchartered territory. Then I was asked if I wanted to be a part of this show, and it felt serendipitous.

In terms of the physical challenge aspect of the show, that kind of stuff excites me. My background is in skiing and action sports, and I've had to deal with all sorts of injuries and setbacks, so the pain of it wasn't necessarily something that deterred me. It sounded fun, and my schedule allowed it, and I had the free time to do it. I was like, "I should definitely say yes to this."

This was 'the most difficult part' about being on the show

How much prior knowledge did you have about the specific challenges you were about to undergo on the show?

Not a lot. They told us leading into it that we might have to jump out of a helicopter, or we might have to do this or that. [They] prepped us to be open to anything and told us that it would be difficult — not only physically demanding but also scary and psychological.

But in terms of what we were actually doing while we were there and day to day, we had no idea. Each and every day, we were completely kept in suspense — which was probably actually the most difficult part of the whole experience, never knowing what's happening and never being able to relax or kick your feet up, because at any moment, you could be called on to do something else. It was a very tense atmosphere of unknowing.

What did you do before shooting to prepare yourself for "Special Forces: World's Toughest Test"?

I didn't do anything, but part of me thinks I should have, and part of me also is like, "Well, it didn't ultimately make a difference," because you can't prepare yourself for the type of things that we were thrown into. Short of going through boot camp in the military and getting that kind of an experience, you wouldn't be able to be prepared.

I was in pretty good physical shape going into it. I had just gotten off of an Olympic circuit, and I was healthy, but I don't know. It wasn't even really a test of strength or a test of endurance. It was more like a test of your physical and emotional elasticity and how much you could endure.

How being an athlete impacted his experience

Do you feel like any of your Olympic training came in handy shooting "Special Forces: World's Toughest Test"?

I wouldn't say my Olympic training, per se, but because of skiing, and a long career in it and growing up in it and climbing up the ranking in the sport, I've learned how to endure and dig deep.

I've also dealt with a lot of injuries and discomfort and had to compete with broken bones and torn ligaments. Not that that's exactly what the show was, but the show was all about pushing yourself, and being utterly exhausted and generally uncomfortable the whole time. I feel like I have had a little bit of experience with that.

But even with skiing, when I'm in pain and frustrated and having to do a qualifying event or compete or whatever it is, at the end of the day, I still get to go home and kick my feet up. If I'm in a hotel, it's a comfortable hotel room, and I get to have a shower.

This show was not that. This show was all of the physical stuff, and then never getting to relax and constantly being uncomfortable. You would go to bed, and your clothes are so wet, and you don't want to take them off because you have no idea when you're going to have to go. It could be in 30 minutes, or it could be in six hours.

Did you feel like being an athlete gave you an advantage over some of the other celebrities who were on the show?

Only in the ways that I just said. Some of the challenges were pretty physically demanding, so being in shape definitely helped with that, and having gone through some of the training that I've gone through for sports maybe gave me a slight edge.

But ultimately, we weren't competing with one another. If I was competing against someone else that was on the show, maybe that would've been advantageous. But we were all competing against ourselves and being pushed to our own limits. It was almost like the more you've trained, the more fit you are, the more you're going to have to work when you get there, because you're getting pushed to your own limit as well.

For some of the discomfort and stuff, I don't know. I don't think that anyone could have been prepared for it.

What he told himself to get through the toughest challenges

Were there any of your celebrity co-stars that inspired you the most while watching them throughout those 10 days?

Yes — everybody in their own ways. I don't want to give away any spoilers in terms of who makes it how far, but every person was definitely pushed to their own limit, and I watched people persevere and find something within themselves to keep going, and it was inspiring.

"Special Forces: World's Toughest Test" is a lot about your mental strength. What was going through your mind during the most intense tasks? What kinds of things do you tell yourself going through such a tough experience?

I don't know. I always try and remember that, at some point, you'll be on the other side of it, and you'll be looking back on it, and it won't seem as bad.

That's something that I told myself in skiing and stuff too, with certain training. Sometimes it sucks and that's how it is, and there's not a better way to put it, but it doesn't last forever. Whatever the thing that you're up against in that moment is, it always feels overwhelming. Then before [you know] it, you're past it, and it's not overwhelming, and it wasn't insurmountable. It was just a bump in the road.

I was trying to remind myself of that constantly and being like, "This absolutely sucks," [during] whatever it was that we were doing, whatever drill. But it's like, "Don't give up. Don't throw in the towel, because it's not going to last forever."

He admits that the experience 'put things in perspective'

Looking back on shooting the show, do you feel like the experience had any effect on how you approach your physical health today?

I don't think that the experience changed at all the way that I approach anything physically, but it did put things in perspective for me more mentally and emotionally. I've always been someone that does individual sports, and I've always had to look out for myself and my own body and my own best interests.

At the risk of sounding selfish, it's always been about me. My career's been about me. It's an individual sport. Even when we go to the Olympics and compete for our country, it's still an individual sport. There's a sense of pride knowing that you're competing for something bigger, but it still comes down to you.

In this experience, I went into it thinking and feeling that same way and had to have a mental shift along the way, because it was a group effort. We became a little family, and we were really supportive of one another. Ultimately, I wouldn't have been able to do my best if it weren't for everyone there, and I think that everyone would say the same thing — we all had to lean on each other.

Here's what Gus Kenworthy is up to next

You announced that you've officially retired from skiing after competing in the Beijing Olympics this year. How often do you ski now?

I haven't skied since the Olympics in February. I took the rest of last season off, and then I definitely had a little bit of FOMO this fall and this early winter seeing all my friends and competitors posting stuff, training camps, and events.

But I am heading to Colorado [this season] to see my family and be home for Christmas. I'll get back on snow in the next couple of days, which I'm excited about.

Then, I'm planning on going back to Telluride for Gay Ski Week this year, and I'm going to try and fit in a couple of other trips. But it's pretty crazy, because I went from skiing all the time and never having more than a few weeks off and my whole year mapped out around competitions and training camps, and now I'm going to ski three times this year or something. It's very weird.

You get to enjoy it now and not feel like it's a competition while you're skiing. It's probably a really different experience.

For sure. I miss the feeling that competing brings, the adrenaline rush that it brings, but there are definitely a few tricks and things that I was having to do the last few seasons in order to compete and be in the mix, and I'm grateful that I'll never have to do them again. [Laughs]

Will we be seeing more of you on television? You've been doing more acting, so what's coming up next for you?

That's the goal. I've been in LA since the Olympics. I've been taking some acting classes. I just got new management. I'm really excited for the new year because I feel like I've got newfound motivation. I am hoping that it translates in the audition room and on tape and I hopefully book something great, because it would be very fun to be back on a TV show.

The two-hour premiere of "Special Forces: World's Toughest Test" airs Wednesday, January 4 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on FOX.

This interview has been edited for clarity.