She just won gold at Beijing Winter Olympics – but that barely scrapes the surface of what Eileen Gu has achieved in just eighteen years.
Who is Eileen Gu?
Eileen Gu hails from in the United States in the city of San Francisco, CA. Growing up in Lake Tahoe, her love for skiing began at the innocent age of three years old. Her fledging phase didn’t last long, though.
By the age of 18, she was representing the US in the sports world cup. A fact we were not surprised to learn, given her history of broad-spectrum achievements. She may barely classify as an adult by legal standards, but this young woman has accomplished in her mere eighteen years.
Eileen Gu or Gu Ailing (her Chinese name), is all of the above. In fact, we’re sure to save time telling you who she isn’t rather than who she is.
Gu is best known for her freestyle, halfpipe and slopestyle skiing, and as of late, her gold medal Olympic Games winning. But she also plays classical piano and is an endurance runner. She’s on the Forbes 30 under 30 list, has an SAT score of 1580 and studies at Stanford University. She speaks fluent English and Mandarin and is a fashion model, a very accomplished one at that.
Not limited to just one talent, the Chinese-American beauty is also signed with the global modelling agency IMG. She has worked for Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Victoria Secret and Fendi. She’s graced the cover of Vogue and Marie Claire. But none of that has amounted to her achievement made just this week. Gu just won gold at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games in the women’s freeski big air event. Following an average second run, she returned firing on her final run to achieve a 94.50, taking her to first place and claiming China’s third gold medal of the games. This mind-blowing triumph came after Gu’s controversial and challenging decision just three years ago.
Gu’s Hard Switch to China
Back in 2019, Gu decided to switch her nation affiliation from the US to China – a choice she told Multipple, she had been thinking about since she was 11. This initially left her US fan base puzzled and in shock and resulted in a great deal of public scrutiny across the US. There were beliefs that Gu wouldn’t have become the athlete she is today without her access to the US’s world-class coaching, development, and athletic facilities. Former US Winter X Games gold medallist Jen Hudak, also suggested that Gu’s decision seemed “opportunistic”.
“The politics [ of the decision] are ugly.”
Julian G. Ku, Distinguished Professor of Law at Hofstra University in New York.
Gu, however, was unwavering in her decision. Stating her reasoning in an announcement post on Instagram, “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.” She continues, “if I can help to inspire one young girl to break a boundary, my wishes will have come true”. Her decision which she has described as an “incredibly tough decision [for me] to make”, resulted in leaps and bounds for her career despite intense geopolitical pressures and commercial disputes.
Her rise from the ashes
Following the announcement, the young athlete models fame and influence propelled to new heights in China. With now, over 2 million followers on the popular Chinese social media platform, Weibo, Gu has racked up major Chinese sponsorship deals. Ones that even seize to minimise her other US-based sponsorship deals with Tiffany and Company, IWC watch company and Victoria’s Secret. In China, she is frequently tagged as the “snow princess” and the next Yao Ming. Since competing for the nation, she has grossed over seven world championship first place winnings across halfpipe, slopestyle and big air events.
Her Chinese American heritage at play
Her Chinese American heritage’s meets in an almost polarising manner- celebrating China through sport and America through fashion. Last year, her Met Gala attendance mirrored her strong ties to the US as well as her choice to study at one of the countries most recognised colleges – Stanford University.
As for China, she won a gold medal for the nation and became the youngest freestyle skiing Olympic champion at 18. At the core of all Eileen Gu’s success, it seems as though her sights have always been one thing- to be a role model for the next generation of sportswomen. “I’ve always said my goal is to globally spread the sport I love to kids, especially girls, and to shift sport culture toward one motivated by passion,” she tells Marie Claire.
“It’s a lot, but you’re never too young to make change. I don’t really believe in the concept that you have to wait until you’re older to be able to have some kind of global impact,”
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