US-born and trained skier Eileen Gu, who represented China at this year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing, is now pushing for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
At Tuesday’s TIME100 summit in New York, Joe Time Billed by the magazine as a gathering to “spotlight solutions and encourage action towards a better world”, Gu said his new role was a “beautiful example of globalism”.
In a media advisory provided by the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games, President and CEO Fraser Bullock said that Gu will be a global ambassador who will “speak to the vision of sport growing around the world through the Olympics.”
“Our bid for 2030 or 2034 will focus on using our sports as a catalyst to activate winter sports around the world,” Bullock said. “Eileen is effectively aligned and connected to this vision. As a global ambassador, she can take that message to millions of people around the world.”
The Office of the Mayor of Salt Lake City told VOA Mandarin in a written statement, “A key vision for us as a bidding group is to use our sports platform to help increase interest in winter sports on a global scale.” Eileen is one[n] Extraordinary spokesperson for him.”
Both the Salt Lake City committee and the mayor’s office declined VOA’s requests for comment, as did Gu’s agent.
Chinese state operated Global Times An op-ed said it was “not a surprise” for Gu to represent Salt Lake City, and it was not the first time that athletes had supported hosting applications from countries other than their own. For example, Taiwanese-American tennis player Michael Chang was an ambassador for China’s 2008 Olympic bid, while Chinese snooker sensation Ding Junhui supported London’s bid to host the Olympics in 2012. But neither competed for countries other than itself.
Born in California, Gu decided to compete for China at the 2022 Beijing Olympics when she was 15 years old. Before winning two gold medals and one silver in February, she was one of the most marketable athletes in China – with lucrative sponsorship deals, the trend covers and a huge fan base – where she emerged as the unofficial face of sports.
However, questions about his nationality intimidated him. The freestyle skiing champion has repeatedly dodged the question of whether she had given up her US citizenship to ski for China or held dual nationality, which is not recognized in China.
When he announced his decision to join the China team, Gu only said that “I am proud of my heritage, and equally proud of my American upbringing.”
Gu’s latest switch quickly became a trending topic on Chinese social media. On Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, content related to Gu’s move garnered more than 430 million views within 48 hours.
At the TIME100 summit, Gu said he had no regrets about swapping allegiance ahead of the Beijing Games. In February, she said she wanted to “activate youth in China to engage in the Winter Games.”
Although Gu’s online supporters in China praised “international influence as a Chinese athlete”, his Salt Lake City role did not sit well with some Chinese netizens, who called his citizenship “resilient”.
“Of course, she doesn’t regret it,” remarked a Chinese netizen. “Billions of yuan endorsement fees. He wouldn’t have got that much to represent the US”
Another netizen made fun of him by rewriting the famous poem “Goodbye Again, Cambridge” by Chinese poet Xu Zimo: “Very quietly I take my leave / Quietly as soon as I get here; Slowly I take my skis / Billions of yuan I will stroke the endorsement fee. Bring it.”