China hails one of its US-born Olympians as it rebukes another


Gu celebrates on the podium during the medals ceremony after the freestyle skiing women’s freeski big air final run during the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing on Feb 8, 2022. At one point after her victory, hashtags related to Gu’s performance were simultaneously the first, second, fourth, sixth and seventh most-popular topics on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform. — AFP

Chinese social media erupted with delight on Feb 8 after Eileen Gu, the US-born skier who decided to represent China at the Winter Olympics, won her first gold medal of the games at the Women’s Freestyle Skiing Big Air event in Beijing.

At one point after her victory, hashtags related to Gu’s performance were simultaneously the first, second, fourth, sixth and seventh most-popular topics on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform. One hashtag, which translated to #Eileen Gu Gold#, accumulated more than 370 million views in less than two hours after her win.

China’s state-owned media were just as quick to trumpet the gold medal, with the official Xinhua News Agency publishing a headline that described it as a “historic” victory. The People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper, posted pictures of Gu spinning in the air with the headline “Champion! Eileen Gu Makes History!”

The accolades for Gu, who has a Chinese mother and an American father, stood in stark contrast to the vitriol that flooded Chinese social media after Zhu Yi, a US-born figure skater who like Gu choose to represent China, performed poorly in her debut. In an interview with Xinhua, Zhu attributed falling during a subsequent routine on Feb 7 to the online criticism, some of which questioned why she’d been selected for the team ahead of Chinese-born athletes.

Speaking to reporters after her event, Gu said she had just met Zhu a few days earlier, calling the skater “incredible”. “We all need to have some sporting spirit,” Gu said. “Sometimes we cannot bring the best. She is one who wants to bring her A-game. I hope everybody understands her situation.” – Bloomberg

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