Last Friday, February 18, freeskier Eileen Gu (also known as Gu Ailing in China) won her second gold medal and third medal overall in the 2022 Winter Olympics. With this recent victory, Gu makes history as the first freestyle skier to win three medals from a single Olympic game. Eileen Gu began setting records as early as her first event, being the first woman to land a double cork 1440 in freeskiing.
In addition to Gu’s extraordinary performance during this year’s games, her decision to represent China has been the topic of many discussions, even escalating into heated controversy among many online platforms and media outlets. Eileen Gu, who is now eighteen, was originally born in San Francisco to a Chinese mother and American father. Strongly tied to both countries, Gu states, “When I’m in China, I’m Chinese and when I go to America, I’m American”. Gu explains that her decision to support China in this year’s Olympics was to serve as a role model for Chinese female athletes, where freeskiing is generally less popular than in the United States. Believing that she would make a larger impact within China, Gu justifies her decision to represent her mother’s homeland: “The opportunity to help inspire millions of young people where my mum was born, during the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help promote the sport I love”. She explains that “Through skiing, I hope to unite people, promote common understanding, create communication, and forge friendships between nations.”
Despite Gu’s well-natured intentions, she has received lots of backlash for her choice to represent China. Some critics accuse her of being “ungrateful” and even label her as a “traitor” to America. Eileen Gu is one of many who face the challenges of carrying multiple identities and living in a world where others pressure you to choose one or the other, and never both. What’s incredibly ironic is that those who tell immigrants and other POC to ‘go back home’ are the same people that are now angry at Gu for not choosing to represent the United States. A line that summarizes this blatant irony reads “You told us to go back to China, and Eileen Gu finally did”. It seems like America does care about its immigrants- but only when they win Olympic medals.
Being the source of public debate at a young age, Gu responds to criticism elegantly: “I’m an 18-year-old out here living my best life. I’m not going to waste my time trying to placate people who are uneducated, and don’t experience the gratitude and love I have on a daily basis.” In spite of the hateful comments Eileen Gu has received from certain groups of people, she has also gained lots of popularity and support within both China and America and becoming an idol to many.