One of the biggest stars on the Olympic stage in Beijing has fans both in the United States and in China.
Meet Eileen Gu, or Gu Ailing as she is known in the Chinese community. The native of San Francisco is set to compete in a number of freestyle skiing events at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
However, she is not competing for the red, white and blue. Gu is representing China at the 2022 Games instead of the United States. The 18-year-old has become extremely popular in China, as she is considered one of the favorites to win gold medals in a number of events.
She is coming off two gold medals at the 2021 FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships in Aspen — one in the halfpipe and one in the slopestyle.
Where was Eileen Gu born?
The skier was born and raised in San Francisco to an American father and a Chinese-born mother.
Her mother got Gu into skiing at a young age, taking her to Lake Tahoe for ski lessons when she was just 3 years old. Gu’s mother is a skier herself and wanted to bring Gu along with her to share her passion for the slopes.
Why is Eileen Gu competing for China?
In 2019, Gu decided to asked the International Ski Federation for a change of nation from the U.S. to China.
She detailed the decision on her Instagram, citing the choice as an “incredibly tough decision.”
“I am proud of my heritage, and equally proud of my American upbringings,” Gu captioned the post. “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.
“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.”
What events is Gu competing in at the 2022 Winter Olympics?
As a freestyle skier, Gu is competing in the women’s freeski big air, slopestyle and halfpipe competitions.
Sunday night, Gu had qualification runs for the big air event, advancing to the finals with her best score of 161.25, which placed her fifth. The top 12 athletes advance to the finals.
She will go for gold Tuesday, Feb. 8 with the final runs set to begin at 9 p.m. EST.
The women’s slopestyle qualification runs begin Sunday, Feb. 13 at 11:10 p.m. EST. with the finals taking place the next night. The halfpipe begins on Thursday, Feb. 17 and will conclude the following night.
What are Gu’s plans for after the 2022 Winter Olympics?
The Olympian graduated high school in two years, so her next step is college.
She has been accepted to her mother’s alma mater, Stanford University, and plans on attending classes in the fall of 2022.
But she is also a fashion model, already appearing on the cover of Elle and Vogue China. She is currently signed to the IMG Models agency.