Retired two-time world champion freestyle skier Jen Hudak thinks California ski prodigy Eileen Gu is betraying her country to compete for China in the 2022 Winter Olympics.
“It is not my place to judge, but Eileen is from California, not from China, and her decision [to ski for China] seems opportunistic,” said Hudak.
“She became the athlete she is because she grew up in the United States, where she had access to premier training grounds and coaching that, as a female, she might not have had in China,” she continued. “I think she would be a different skier if she grew up in China.
Gu was born in the United States to an American father and a Chinese mother. She began competing as an American in major skiing events in 2018, but announced her defection to China in a 2019 Instagram post.
“This was an incredibly tough decision for me to make,” the then 15-year-old wrote. “I am proud of my heritage, and equally proud of my American upbringings. 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.”
Gu has crushed her competition since arriving on the ski scene, winning two Gold medals at the 2021 World Championships in Aspen, and according to Hudak, is favored to win in the three events she’s competing in at the Olympics.
“I don’t think anyone is at her level. I can see her getting medals in all three events this year,” Hudak remarked. “This makes me sad, it would be nice to see the medals going to America.”
And Gu is for all intents and purposes, an American. She was born in San Francisco, where she graduated from high school, and intends to enroll at Stanford University after the Beijing Games. China does not allow dual citizenship, but Gu has yet to renounce her status as an American citizen.
“Nobody can deny I’m American, nobody can deny I’m Chinese,” she said in an interview. “When I’m in the U.S., I’m American, but when I’m in China, I’m Chinese.”
But as Hudak implies, Gu ditching the U.S. for China might be financially motivated. Despite being sponsored by Red Bull, Cadillac, and Beats by Dre, the twenty-plus endorsements the “Snow Princess” has in China, at a minimum of $2.5 million a pop, have proven to be much more lucrative.
“She is the golden star for the country with the fastest-growing economy,” one of her former coaches commented. “She can be the Tony Hawk of winter sports in China.”