Eileen Gu’s US Winter Olympics ambassador bid receives both criticism and praise

Eileen Gu’s US Winter Olympics ambassador bid receives both criticism and praise
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 07: Eileen Gu speaks onstage at the TIME100 Summit 2022 at Jazz at Lincoln Center on June 7, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for TIME)

Triple Olympic medalist Eileen Gu is half Chinese, half American. She originally competed for the 2018-19 Freestyle Ski World Cup but has competed for China since June 2019 after requesting a change of nation with the International Ski Federation. Her goal was to compete for China in the Beijing Olympics, in which she took home three medals – two gold. The decision, though, annoyed some as it was during the height of the US-China tensions.

On Tuesday, Gu announced she would become an ambassador if the US hosts the Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2030 or 2034 at the TIME100 Summit in New York. Hundreds of millions have responded to Gu’s bid, making it the second-most-read topic on Weibo on Wednesday morning. But some are seeing her announcement as a betrayal; others have said she “pretended” to be Chinese to make millions in endorsements, while others have supported her and her decision.

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“I think that’s this beautiful example of globalism and of the capacity that we can use skiing and we can use sport and we can use winter sport to connect people,” she told TIME senior sports correspondent Sean Gregory in New York City. “Salt Lake specifically wants to become a global destination for athletes everywhere to come train there, and they want to incorporate 15 new countries into the Winter Olympics. I think that’s something that’s really beautiful, and I’ve always stood for that, and so I’m really honored to be a part of the whole thing.”

“Gu Ailing is an international ambassador and influential athlete,” said one user. “I feel that it is rare to have such an excellent woman with international characteristics.”

“My friend Gu Ailing is really wonderful and makes me proud,” said another user, referring to the athlete by her Chinese name.

“Is she Chinese or American?” wrote another user.