Skier Eileen Gu Reveals Her Reasons For Representing China

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Fatima Araos

Freestyle skier Eileen Gu shocked the world in 2019 when she announced on Instagram that she would be competing for China instead of the USA in the 2022 Winter Olympics to be held in Beijing. The 18-year-old sports prodigy was born in San Francisco, California, to an American father and a Chinese mother, was educated and got her ski training in the USA, and started competing in major events in 2018 as an American.

The following year, however, she decided to switch allegiance to Team China. Find out why below.

‘Incredibly Tough Decision’

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On June 7, 2019, Gu posted on Instagram about her choice to represent her mother’s homeland in the upcoming Winter Olympics.

“This was an incredibly tough decision for me to make,” the freeski star, who was 15 at the time, wrote. “I am proud of my heritage, and equally proud of my American upbringings. The opportunity to help inspire millions of young people where my mom was born, during the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help to promote the sport I love.”

Raising Awareness For Snow Sports

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Needless to say, Gu’s decision stirred controversy and was met with hateful comments and even death threats.

In an interview with Highsnobiety, she explained further, “I have been thinking about competing for China since I was 11, when the announcement was made that the Olympics would take place in China. After the announcement, China set a goal of putting 300 million people on snow to raise awareness for snow sports before 2022. Just being able to inspire people to start trying has been one of my biggest goals.”

Representation

The 2021 X Games gold medalist also noted that while she had American and Canadian skiers to look up to when she started training, young kids in China didn’t have that privilege “because the sport didn't really exist at a professional level there,” she said. “Essentially, it comes back to representation — I wanted to inspire more people to pick up skiing in China because it's brought me so much more than medals.”

In January 2021, Gu became the first Chinese athlete to win gold in the X Games.

Making History

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Her haul, consisting of two golds and one bronze, doubled China’s total medal count in the X Games, which was a “huge deal” to her, she told Forbes. “That was the main reason that I decided to ski for China, to make that history and be that inspiration for a new generation of freeskiers, especially younger Chinese freeskiers.”

Growing up, Gu had idols like Maggie Voisin who inspired her game. “Looking over to China, I just realized I wanted to be able to be that for somebody else,” she said.

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