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Eileen Gu wins gold medal at Beijing 2022.
The athlete achieved an unprecedented medal for the Asian country. Photo: @eileen_gu_

Eileen Gu, the gold medalist for China who once competed for Team USA

It's an incredible story of an athlete who left the United States to etch her name in China's Olympic history amid diplomatic tension between the two powers.

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After obtaining her Olympic gold medal in the "big air" contest, an acrobatic skiing discipline that premiered at the Beijing Olympics, Eileen Gu was asked by the press if she still had her U.S. citizenship, a question she evaded noting her gratitude for the delegations of the United States and China, while emphasizing that sport should be a reason for unity and not for divisions around a nationality.

For Gu, 18, it is not an easy question to answer with so many diplomatic implications, especially since it uncommon for an athlete from the United States to leave the country to join the delegation of another — a situation that is even more relevant when the other nation is its arch-rival China.

The probing of the press is understandable in that, unlike other countries that allow dual nationality, China is recognized for not granting that status to any of its inhabitants, so the conclusion that remains up in the air is if Gu not only resigned from participating for Team USA, but also renounced her United States citizenship, despite having been born in San Francisco and having learned to ski around Lake Tahoe.

Already with the gold medal to her name after an incredible performance that included the first jump of four and a half rotations in her career, Gu entered Chinese sports history by becoming the youngest athlete from the country to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics, an honor that could continue to grow if she manages to be crowned in the other two events she is signed up for. In both, she is a favorite.

Her family

Gu is the daughter of an American man, about whom little is known, and a first-generation Chinese immigrant woman and from whom she adopted her surname. Although she started her sports career as a United States citizen in 2018, the following year, she transferred to the International Ski Federation. She says that with her performances, she seeks to inspire millions of young people in China.

What do the critics say?

In any scenario and time, Gu's decision would have caused controversy, but choosing an Olympics where her country of birth boycotted the event held by her new home, many more suspicions are generated.

While Gu, recently admitted to Stanford University, feels American and Chinese at the same time, speaking both languages fluently, she tries not to be the one to put labels on herself and wants to avoid becoming a new object of dispute between these two super powers at any cost. However, as she seeks to get rid of the controversy, her current situation makes others point point and criticize.

On the one hand, many criticize that while in the U.S., she supported the Black Lives Matter movement, but remains silent on issues that violate human rights in China.

In China, her arrival has been viewed favorably and has been well received by the state media. With her nickname of the genius ski girl, she has been promoted in several documentaries and has managed to reach business deals with the Bank of China, China Mobile and JD.com.

Gu's new status comes after the rules for foreigners to apply for permanent residence in China were expanded in 2020 by the Ministry of Justice. This was provided as a mechanism so those who are internationally recognized in different areas, including sports, can be eligible.

Gu was joined by four more athletes who went through the entire process to achieve eligibility to compete for the host country at Beijing 2022.

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