Eileen Gu Claims Her First Title After Pledging to Ski for China

Freestyle Skiier Eileen Gu at Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland in January 2020 (source: shutterstock)

Chinese skier Eileen Ailing Gu won her first gold medal since she announced that she would ski for China in the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics. The 16-year-old won both the women’s slopestyle gold medal and the women’s halfpipe skiing event in the FIS World Cup held in Calgary, Canada.

Gu shared the news on her Weibo account, receiving over 19,000 likes on her post.

Born in San Francisco, California, Gu changed her national affiliation from American to Chinese in June 2019. The American-born skier sees the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “I have decided to compete for China in the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics. This was an incredibly tough decision for me to make,” said Gu on her personal Instagram.“I am proud of my heritage, and equally proud of my American upbringing. 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 promote the sport I love. Through skiing, I hope to unite people, promote common understanding, create communication, and forge friendships between nations. If I can help to inspire one young girl to break a boundary, my wishes will have come true.”

According to the Olympic Charter, a competitor who is a national of two or more countries at the same time may represent either one of them. A competitor who has represented one country in the Olympic Games, or at a regionally competitive level can acquire a new nationality and participate in the Olympic Games to represent his new country provided that at least three years have elapsed since the competitor last represented their former country.

Inkstone reported in June 2019 that Gu will continue her school and training in the United States, and will visit China during summer breaks and for competitions. While multiple Chinese media outlets claim that Gu became a naturalized citizen of China and gave up her American citizenship, her citizenship status remains unclear.

Changing the country of affiliation does not necessarily mean changing one’s nationality. While Chinese nationality laws do not recognize dual citizenship, it remains uncertain whether Gu acquired her Chinese nationality through naturalization or family heritage. Gu’s mother was born in Beijing, China. Depending on her mother’s immigration status in the United States at the time, Gu may have acquired Chinese nationality at the same time when she was born.

Since her engagements with the Chinese skiing team last June, Gu has been actively involved in the country’s sports industry. The 16-year-old skier has signed contracts as a brand ambassador for several Chinese commercial brands including Anta Sports, Chinese dairy brand Mengniu and Red Bull.

Speaking to Chinese state media People’s Daily after winning two gold medals, Gu was elated for her best performance in the event: “I never thought I would be able to win before the event, I was just trying to do my best. The best part of the competition is to have my own best performance, I am happy that I won.”

Gu also said that she is trying to have a balanced lifestyle between school and competitions. The Chinese skier is aiming to finish her high school education in the coming year.