The 18-years-old American-born skier Eileen Gu is racking in the medals at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, just not for Team USA.
On Tuesday, Gu finished second in the women’s slopestyle event, falling short of back-to-back gold medals by just three-tenths of a point. Gremaud Mathilde of Switzerland took home the gold medal, with Kelly Sildaru of Estonia claiming the bronze.
Medal # 2️⃣ for Eileen Gu. 🥈
The 18-year-old earns her second Olympic medal of the 2022 #WinterOlympics in women's freeski slopestyle.
📺 @nbc and @peacockTV
💻 https://t.co/kCkQzKDhze pic.twitter.com/oDfUgndd3g
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 15, 2022
Gu needed a huge third and final run in order to leap into medal position after falling on her second run of the day. Gu said she “wasn’t in the zone” on her first two runs in the slopestyle.
“I think I was feeling a little bit tired mentally after big air,” Gu said. “In my first and second run I wasn’t fully in it. I wasn’t in the zone, I wasn’t feeling that rush, that excitement. I felt almost too calm, which sometimes doesn’t work out the best. I’m one of those people that kind of needs to have the pressure on and I was happy that I was able to put it down.”
Gu has become the Chinese poster child for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Even though Gu is American, born and raised in San Francisco, she chose to represent her mother’s home country instead of Team USA, making the decision to represent China in 2019.
Following her second medal of the Beijing Games, Gu was asked about doing business in China. “I don’t really think of skiing as a business endeavour,” Gu said. “I guess it’s my job, but I also do it because I love it.
“I chose to ski for China because there’s this massive opportunity to spread the sport to people who haven’t even heard of it before,” she continued. “And honestly, I have met my goal. There are 300 million people on snow [in China], and to have even influenced a tiny fraction of that makes me immensely proud.”
“I feel as though I use my voice as much as I can in topics that are relevant and personal to myself and targeted toward people who are willing to listen to me,” Gu added.
In her first event of the Winter Olympics — women’s big air — Gu took home her first Olympic gold medal, landing her first-ever 1620 in competition.
Following the win, Gu was asked about her U.S. citizenship status as China does not allow dual citizenship, but the American skier dodged the question.
“I’ve always been super outspoken about my gratitude to the U.S., especially the U.S. team,” Gu said when asked if she had to give up her U.S. citizenship to compete for China. “I feel as though they’ve helped me out so much in my development, they continue to support me. And same with the Chinese team. They’ve always been super supportive and they’ve helped me so much. And so in that sense, I think that that speaks volumes to the ability of sport to bridge the gap and to be a force for unity.”
Due to China’s rules on dual citizenship, Gu would have had to give up her U.S. citizenship in order to compete, or China made an exemption in order to allow Gu to compete on the Chinese Olympic roster.
“Yeah, um, first of all, I’m an 18-year old girl,” Gu said when pressed to answer. “I’m a kid. I haven’t even gone to college yet. I’m a pretty normal person . . .”
“If people don’t have a good heart, they won’t believe me, because they can’t empathize with people who do have a good heart,” she continued. “And so in that sense, I feel as though it’s a lot easier to block out the hate now. And also, they’re never going to know what it feels like to win an Olympic gold medal.”
Gu’s decision to represent China comes at a time when relations between the U.S. and the communist country are perilous, at best. In the lead-up to the Olympics, most stories have focused on the location of the games, rather than the events and the athletes themselves. In December, the Biden administration announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Games, citing the PRC’s “crimes against humanity” and “ongoing genocide” as to why the U.S. would not be sending any official representation to Beijing.
Gu’s decision to compete under the Chinese flag has caused a wave of backlash online for her decision to spurn Team USA, including from athletes within the sport.
“It is not my place to judge, but Eileen is from California, not from China, and her decision [to ski for China] seems opportunistic,” said Jen Hudak, a former Winter X Games gold medalist for the USA women’s team. “I can’t speak to what Eileen’s Chinese heritage means to her and she has every right to do what she believes is best for her career.”
Gu will have one more chance to medal at the Beijing Games, competing in the women’s halfpipe later this week.
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to [email protected].
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