Gu goes for gold: SF native represents China

Eileen Gu, an 18-year-old competitive skier, recently won silver in women’s Freeski Slopestyle and gold in women’s Freeski Big Air and women’s Halfpipe in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Gu was born to a Chinese mother and American father. She grew up in California, went to University High School, and was admitted to Stanford in early February. On top of being an Olympic level skier, Gu is also a model, represented by brands such as IMG Models, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co.
In 2021, Eileed Gu won two gold medals and a bronze at the Aspen X Games, competing in big air, slopestyle, and half pipe. Many were surprised when the 17-year-old came away with three medals.
It is no surprise then that she claimed gold in Big Air at the 2022 Olympics with a double 1620– four full 360s, incorporating two off-axis rotations in the air. This was a trick she had never even attempted, and she became one of the few female freeskiers to ever have landed it. The big air event is assessed through three jumps, the top two scores are combined to form a total score. She was in the third position going into her third jump, but Gu secured gold with a score of 94.50 for the double 1620 and her total overall score became 188.25.
A week later on February 15 Gu won a silver medal in women’s freeski slopestyle. Just two days after that Gu dominated the women’s halfpipe and received a second gold medal. Gu was so far in the lead after her first two scores that her third lap became a victory lap. She will walk away from this Olympics with two golds and one silver, placing in the top two for all of her events.
Although raised in the United States, Eileen Gu competes for China. In June of 2019 she requested a change of nation from the International Ski Federation, from the United States to China. Though Gu has not shared her citizenship status with the public, China does not allow dual citizenship, meaning she would have to have been naturalized or gained permanent residency in order to compete for China’s team.
This brings up the question: why compete for China? In an Instagram post, Gu wrote, “Through skiing, I hope to unite people, promote common understanding, create communication, and forge friendships between nations.” She is fluent in both Mandarin and English and was reportedly raised solely by her mother.
In 2019, she was seen at Paris Fashion week and the Met Gala, both notoriously exclusive events. Her popularity among Generation Z, which has a large demographic of third-culture youth (people who are raised in a different culture than their parents), could be attributed to her marketability as half-Chinese and half-American. She arrived at the Olympics as one of the most heavily sponsored athletes, having signed deals with over 30 international and Chinese brands. The money that Chinese endorsements could offer Gu is more than the endorsements offered by American brands, which could be another motivation for Gu’s switch.
To Vogue Hong Kong, Gu said, “Like skiing, modeling requires incredible expression and personality. It requires creativity, confidence, and the ability to learn and adapt…The transition between modeling and skiing became a break and a practice for each other that helped me eventually feel more motivated in each area.”