Eileen Gu, 18, speaking at the Time 100 conference in June, where she announced that she accepted a position with the Salt Lake City bid for the upcoming winter Olympic games

California-born Olympian Eileen Gu now working for Salt Lake City Olympic bid committee

Eileen Gu, the California-born freestyle skier who reportedly made tens of millions while competing for China in the Beijing Olympics, has taken a job with the committee behind Salt Lake City’s bid for the upcoming winter games.     

The 18-year-old was raised in a wealthy San Francisco neighborhood and was educated at leafy private academies there, but became China’s darling during last winter’s Olympic Games when she chose to compete for the country. 

Gu’s mother is Chinese, and her father is said to be American. 

The New York Times reported that ‘there is no public record of Gu’s father’ and that she declined to say whether she knew anything about him. 

It is unclear what citizenship Gu holds, as China does not allow dual-citizenship. However, there has been speculation that China made an exception for Gu, as Chinese officials have avoided addressing her particular status.

‘I’m American when I’m in the US, and I’m Chinese when I’m in China,’ she told CNN in February.  

She won two gold medals for China, and reportedly raked in at least $31.4million in endorsements as she appeared in ads throughout the country.

Meanwhile, China – America’s leading geopolitical rival – is a nation that is credibly accused of carrying out numerous human rights abuses, including genocide against millions of Muslim Uyghurs living in China.

Eileen Gu, 18, speaking at the Time 100 conference in June, where she announced that she accepted a position with the Salt Lake City bid for the upcoming winter Olympic games

The California born Gu chose to compete for China in the 2022 Beijing winter games. Above, she competes in freestyle skiing

The California born Gu chose to compete for China in the 2022 Beijing winter games. Above, she competes in freestyle skiing

Now Gu has tossed her hat in with the US, calling herself an ‘ambassador’ while announcing her new role with the Salt Lake City bid for the 2030 or 2034 Olympics at the Time100 summit in June.

How her decision to now speak on behalf of Salt Lake City for the next winter games might affect Chinese perceptions of her – and American – remains to be seen.

She was introduced as ‘China’s Eileen Gu,’ at the Time event where she made her announcement this month, but critics have already begun speculating that Gu could find herself in trouble with the public.

‘Let’s not forget she’s a phenomenal athlete – as good as it gets in her sport, with a glittering future ahead of her,’ wrote Mark Dreyer, a journalist who focuses on sports in China, ‘But as a Chinese Ambassador for the US? I just don’t think that works very well – and it could backfire in multiple ways.’ 

‘I’m all for people trying to build bridges – especially when it comes to the challenging US-China relationship – but you can’t be ‘all-in’ on both sides. It doesn’t sit right with either side.’

Gu characterized her position as a ‘beautiful example of globalism.’ 

A spokesman for the Salt Lake City committee, Tom Kelly, said that Gu was an ‘athlete representative.’ 

‘She is working with us, but we haven’t chosen her exact title.’ Kelly said.

It is unclear whether Gu will be compensated for the role.   

Gu is due to enroll at the top tier Stanford University in the fall, and it is unclear what nation she intends to compete for in the upcoming winter games.

A Chinese billboard featuring Eileen Gu during the 2022 Beijing games. Gu secured at least 23 Chinese endorsements after she chose to compete for the nation

A Chinese billboard featuring Eileen Gu during the 2022 Beijing games. Gu secured at least 23 Chinese endorsements after she chose to compete for the nation 

An advertisement featuring Gu in China during the 2022 winter games. She earned at least $34.1million from endorsements before the games even started

An advertisement featuring Gu in China during the 2022 winter games. She earned at least $34.1million from endorsements before the games even started

Gu's face was plastered across China in ads for Luckin Coffee, China Mobile, Anta sportswear, Mengniu Dairy, and the Peoples Insurance Company of China and Bank of China

Gu’s face was plastered across China in ads for Luckin Coffee, China Mobile, Anta sportswear, Mengniu Dairy, and the Peoples Insurance Company of China and Bank of China

While Gu was not the first US athlete to compete for another nation, her position as a popular face with high medal-earning potential made her decision to compete for China a major public relations win for the nation.

But Gu characterized her decision as being based on a desire to inspire young girls in the nation where her mother was born. 

‘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,’ she wrote in an Instagram post when she announced her decision in 2019.  

‘Through skiing, I hope to unite people, promote common understanding, create communication, and forge friendships between nations.’

Protestors of the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Activists railed against the games being held in China, a nation accused of waging a genocide against Turkic Muslim Uyghurs

Protestors of the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Activists railed against the games being held in China, a nation accused of waging a genocide against Turkic Muslim Uyghurs

A protest of the 2022 Beijing games labeling them the 2022 Genocide Olympics. China was accused of waging a number of humanitarian crimes at the time of the games

A protest of the 2022 Beijing games labeling them the 2022 Genocide Olympics. China was accused of waging a number of humanitarian crimes at the time of the games

Protests of the Beijing games erupted across the world. Above, demonstrators in London protest the genocide of Turkic Muslim Uyghurs

Protests of the Beijing games erupted across the world. Above, demonstrators in London protest the genocide of Turkic Muslim Uyghurs

Controversy over Gu’s decision was compounded by President Biden’s decision to officially boycott the Beijing games in protest of ‘ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.’

China was accused of detaining more than a million Turkic Muslim Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region as part of a genocidal campaign to wipe out their traditional culture, language and beliefs. 

Several other nations, including the UK, Japan and Australia announced diplomatic boycotts of the games following international protests of the Beijing games. 

China warned also athletes heading that they would be ‘punished’ if they stage any form of anti-Beijing protest at the games. 

Gu insisted that her decision to compete for China was not an endorsement of its government. 

‘I’m not trying to solve political problems right now,’ she said in a February interview with the Associated Press, ‘And I’m aware that I’m not able to do everything I want to do in this exact moment.’

Eileen Gu departing the Mark Hotel in 2022 on her way to attend the Met Gala. Her celebrity has soared despite controversy around her decision to compete for China

Eileen Gu departing the Mark Hotel in 2022 on her way to attend the Met Gala. Her celebrity has soared despite controversy around her decision to compete for China

Eileen Gu walking the red carpet at the 2022 Cannes Film festival. The 18 year old became a sensational figure during the 2022 winter games

Eileen Gu walking the red carpet at the 2022 Cannes Film festival. The 18 year old became a sensational figure during the 2022 winter games

Gu profited massively off of her decision to ignore those ‘political problems,’ picking up at least 23 Chinese sponsors and raking in over $31.4 million in endorsements before the Olympic games even started in February. 

Her face was plastered across China in ads for Luckin Coffee, China Mobile, Anta sportswear, Mengniu Dairy, and the Peoples Insurance Company of China and Bank of China.  

In April Gu attended a gathering of Chinese Olympians in Beijing, and was singled out by President Xi Jinping, who said ‘Gu Ailing loves to eat Chinese pies,’ to laughter.

Eileen Gu at the Time 100 summit in June, 2022. She called herself an 'ambassador' when announcing her decision to advocate for the Salt Lake City Olympic bid

Eileen Gu at the Time 100 summit in June, 2022. She called herself an ‘ambassador’ when announcing her decision to advocate for the Salt Lake City Olympic bid

'I'm American when I'm in the US, and I'm Chinese when I'm in China,' Gu told CNN in February

‘I’m American when I’m in the US, and I’m Chinese when I’m in China,’ Gu told CNN in February

 


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