Ski Prodigy Eileen Gu Talks About Legacy And Influencing Social Change

Instagram | Eileen Gu

Fatima Araos

Eileen Gu may be a freestyle ski prodigy and fashion model but she’s so much more than just a pro athlete taking advantage of endorsement opportunities. The 18-year-old Chinese-American is a two-time X Games gold medalist as well as a fashionista who’s been tapped by high-end brands like Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co., and she also happens to be one of the smartest teenage athletes around.

Gu, who’s headed to Stanford this year, is already talking about her legacy and influencing social change at such a young age. See below.

Mature For Her Age


The sports sensation is mature for her 18 years, with a razor-sharp focus directed towards her career and future. When asked by V Magazine what advice she would give to her teenage self, she replied, “Be bold. You’ll wish you did things you were scared of when you’re 90 years old.”

Following her impressive finish at last year’s X Games – two golds and a bronze as a rookie – Gu is headed to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing next month, and there are high hopes of her winning gold there as well.

Breaking Barriers


More than just her athletic prowess, though, the freeski star is remarkable for her deep grasp of social issues. She takes great pride in having broken barriers in gender, race, and social norms as a young woman of Chinese descent in a sport dominated by white males.

When asked what made her want to take skiing seriously, she said, “Being the first [girl] on my all-boys team to slide a rail sideways at age 8! My coach and teammates lined up to cheer me on, and that first rush of euphoria after breaking past my own fears was the spark that got me hooked on freeskiing.”

'Divergence From The Norm'

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“[In terms of fashion], Paris Fashion Week 2019 was [a major moment for me],” Gu continued. “I remember my fellow front-row attendees and the designers of multiple shows celebrating unconventionality, and feeling inspired by the recognition that divergence from the norm should be applauded.”

And when she was asked what memory she holds most dear, she replied, “Being told I was the first person of Chinese descent to win X Games.” Talking to Forbes, she recalled that moment, “Someone told me that statistic, and I started crying. It was a huge deal to me. That was the main reason that I decided to ski for China….”

'Positive Social Change'


As someone who has experienced so much at such a young age, Gu already knows what legacy she wants to leave behind.

"I would like my legacy to be one that highlights the possibility of excellence in multiple fields,” she said. “I’d like to eliminate the concept that in order to 'succeed' in one area, all others must be ignored. I’d like to encourage a healthy baseline of joy throughout life, which stems from multiple different sources. One of which is the desire to give back to your community or create some form of unique, positive social change."