Eileen Gu Wins Gold…but for China

Claire Cody, Editor in Chief

Eileen Gu posing during the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics for the women’s freestyle skiing event.

Accelerating speed, powder shredding behind, a monster of a slope ahead. Bending the knees for takeoff, you soar through the air hitting a double cork 1620 (four and a half rotations while maintaining a side position in the air) landing it perfectly. The mesmerizing trick propels you into first place at the Winter Olympics. And, you’re only 18 years old.
This is what Eileen Gu felt as she made her gold medal run during the women’s big air freestyle skiing competition on Monday, February 7. Born and raised in San Francisco, Gu’s success seemed like a win for America. Except the medal isn’t going home to America…it belongs to China.
Gu, who also is a model, piano player, fluent in two languages, and planning on attending Stanford after the Olympics, has an American father and a Chinese mother. In June 2019, Gu announced that she would start competing for China during international competitions. This raised many mixed feelings, some praising her while others questioning if this was the right move.
“Through skiing, I hope to unite people, promote common understanding, create communication, and forge friendships between nations. If I can help to inspire one young girl to break a boundary, my wishes will have come true,” said Gu about her decision to compete under China’s name. With the hope of inspiring other Asian American girls and creating peace amongst nations, Gu followed through with her promise.
The announcement of Gu competing for China came at a time when relations between the U.S. and China were extremely tense, and conditions have not changed since then. The U.S. did not send an official delegation to these Olympics in objection to many issues arising in China. Between the treatment of Uyghur Muslims and the violence in Hong Kong towards pro-democracy protests, the situations surfacing in China have made our relationship with them extremely rocky. Most recently, the uncertainty of the relationship between Russia and Ukraine plus China’s close relationship with Russia has made this Olympics one of the most controversial in a while.
This is why so many have questioned Gu’s decision. Competing for a nation that is on such uneasy terms with your home country is a risky move. Gu quickly realized this, as the media was not slow to criticize her. Many have also questioned if Gu still maintains U.S. citizenship, as China does not allow you to have dual citizenship. Gu has not directly answered this question yet.
Despite the controversy surrounding the decision, Gu isn’t letting it stop her from celebrating her win. “It doesn’t matter if other people are happy or not because I feel as though I’m doing my best enjoying the entire process and using my voice to create as much positive change as I can for the voices who will listen to me in an area that is personal and relevant to myself,” said Gu.
Whoever the gold medal is under, it will always be Gu’s gold medal as well. Being so young, Gu’s future is without a doubt bright and this definitely will not be the last time we hear Gu’s name, both in skiing and in the world as well.