KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Athletes here are looking to go home with a medal. Gus Kenworthy wants that, but he's working on another souvenir from Sochi – puppies.
The American freeskier is trying to adopt and take home a mother and her litter of four puppies, which have lived outside the Gorki Media Center in the mountain village.
A dog lover his whole life, the 22-year-old Coloradan saw the family and decided he needed to help.
"The puppies are adorable," he said after the semifinal of the slopestyle competition at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on Thursday.
Kenworthy has already arranged for kennels and is trying to get them vaccinated on Monday. Getting the puppies on a plane is not difficult, he said, because he can put two to a kennel. Bringing their mother might be harder because of different requirements for adult dogs.
"I'm trying," he said. "I'm doing what I can."
If he can get everything in order, he says he's already heard from friends and family who will take the puppies. His brother has already said he'd like to adopt one of the puppies, and Kenworthy plans to keep another.
"I've gotten a lot of messages from friends and family that would happily take them, including the mom," Kenworthy said.
Related: How to adopt a dog from Sochi
Kenworthy first learned of this litter of puppies when a friend who had been doing some work at the media center texted him a photo with a warning to Kenworthy that the skier was "going to freak out."
Indeed, Kenworthy was so captivated by the four young dogs that he took the gondola from the athlete's village to the Rosa Khutor village, where he caught a bus to the media center. He found the litter and their mother in their "home" beneath a security tent outside of the main entrance.
That was it. Kenworthy was in love.
"They are like the cutest thing ever," Kenworthy said.
He's returned nearly every day to visit the pups and bring them some food. He even visited them on Wednesday on the eve of the biggest competition of his life. He won the silver medal Thursday afternoon, part of an American sweep of the first-ever slopestyle competition.
Whichever puppy Kenworthy decides to keep will be his first dog since his buddy Mack died last year. Mack was a large mixed breed dog whom Kenworthy picked out a Colorado humane society as a present for his 11th birthday.
"I've been a dog lover my whole life, and to find just the cutest family of strays ever, here at the Olympics, was just a fairytale way to have that go down," Kenworthy said.