August 06, 2018 12:35 PM

In less than a year, figure skater Adam Rippon has gone from being a relative unknown outside of his sport to an Olympic medalist and the latest Dancing with the Stars champion (not to mention pals with Reese Witherspoon and other stars).

How did he do it? A lot of hard work — and some very important wisdom from his mother, Kelly Rippon.

“My hero is definitely my mom,” Adam said on Monday’s PEOPLE Now, describing her as “funny, selfless and strong.”

“I think the greatest lesson that I’ve taken away from my mom is to never limit your dreams,” he said, adding, “Having that mentality has kind of led me to where I am right now.”

Adam, 28, has not been shy about praising his mom’s love and support in the past. On Monday he said he hadn’t “ever run into anyone in my entire life who has dedicated herself to other people the way that my mom has.”

For example, after his parents divorced years ago, he thought he wouldn’t be able to continue competing in skating, given its expense.

But his family found the money, in part because his mom re-financed her house.

From left: Kelly and Adam Rippon in April
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Time

“[She] has given up so much so that I could achieve my dreams, and I’m so appreciative of that,” Adam said. “But as the oldest of her six kids, I’ve seen her do that for every single one of her kids. I knew every thing that she was doing while it was going on, but now being a little bit older and being further away from it, I really see now everything that she went through to just make sure that i just had a chance.”

“She did everything she could in her power to make sure that I had that opportunity,” he continued.

In Kelly’s words, however, her son always seemed like a “natural” on the ice from a young age.

“We used to have conversations about the difference between winning and feeling like a winner,” she told Good Housekeeping earlier this year. “Since he’s been competing, I always tell him, ‘Enjoy yourself and be in the moment!’ “

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And when Adam told his mom that he was gay, he recalled on Monday, she wasn’t fazed at all.

“My mom looked at me and said, ‘I know,’ I and I was like, ‘You did?’ She’s like, ‘Yeah you were inside me for nine months and I’m your mom and I know everything.”

Kelly had some choice words for those few in the skating community who were alarmed by her son coming out.

“I feel sorry for them, because they might as well be telling me to put butter on a burn,” she said in February. “It’s a primitive way of thinking.”

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