Winter Olympics

Eileen Gu's Gold Medal for China Sparks Controversy

Some have been asking why the United States-born and raised athlete is competing for China at the Beijing Winter Olympics

Gold medalist Ailing Eileen Gu of Team China celebrates during the Women's Freestyle Skiing Freeski Big Air Final on Day 4 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at Big Air Shougang on Feb. 8, 2022, in Beijing, China.
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Almost as quickly as San Francisco native Eileen Gu won her gold medal while competing for China in freestyle skiing big air at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, controversy ramped up again.

Her finish atop the podium may be overshadowed by the politics of her situation. Some have been asking why a United States-born and raised athlete is competing for China.

Among those raising questions is former Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who tweeted, in part, "I don’t get it. And never will. I think it is wrong for an American to compete for China. China represses free speech, is well known for their human rights violations."

At a press conference after her victory, Gu said she's trying to be an example for young women and has no interest in the politics or social media debates.

"If people don't believe me and if people don't like me, then that's their loss," she said. "They're never going to win the Olympics."

It's not unusual for American citizens and residents to compete in the Olympics for other counties.

Some fans of Gu said it's not fair to hold the 18-year-old responsible for the Chinese government's actions.

China is a special case because it does not allow its athletes to hold duel citizenship. When Gu was asked whether she formally renounced her U.S. citizenship to compete, she chose not to answer.

"I've always been super outspoken in my gratitude to the U.S., to the U.S. team as well," she said. "They have been nothing but supportive to me, and so for that, I'm forever grateful."

Eileen Gu, the American-born Chinese freeskier popularly dubbed “Snow Princess,” won gold in the women’s freeski big air final after landing a rare 1620. France’s Tess Ledeux also landed the rare jump for silver. Darian Stevens, the only U.S. skier in the event, placed 11th.

When the games are done, it would appear that Gu will head back to the U.S. The San Francisco University High School grad is expected to study at Stanford University.

"San Francisco University High School is proud of alumna Eileen Gu, ’21," Gu's high school said in a statement. "She is an inspirational athlete, and we wish her good health and success in all her endeavors."

Freeskiier Eileen Gu was born in San Francisco but represents China when competing internationally. Here’s five things to know about the freeskiing star.
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