Star skier Eileen Gu switched from Team USA to Team China for 2022 Winter Olympics
California-born skier Eileen Gu, one of the Winter Olympics’ most promising young stars, will compete for China in this year’s competitions after turning her back on Team USA.
The 18-year-old was born and raised in San Francisco. She attended high school there and won a place to study at Stanford. Her mother Yan is a first-generation Chinese immigrant and her father, reportedly American, has never been mentioned publicly.
Despite competing in freestyle skiing as an American for most of her youth career, she will compete in this year’s Olympics for China.
She made the decision in 2019 at the age of 15, claiming at the time that she wanted to inspire a generation of young Chinese girls to take up winter sports – which are relatively less celebrated and glamorous in Asia than in the US.
It is now unclear where Gu’s US citizenship resides – China does not recognize dual citizenship and minors under 16 cannot relinquish their US citizenship because they are not considered mature enough to make the decision.
Gu’s representatives declined to confirm whether she has given up her US citizenship or whether China has asked her to.
While she chooses to represent China – where she is known as ‘Gu Ailing’, ‘the Snow Princess’ and has $1.3 million on Weibo – she maintains major sponsorship deals with American brands such as Cadillac, Tiffany’s, Visa, Therabody, Victoria’s Secret and Oakley.
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California-born skier Eileen Gu, one of the Winter Olympics’ most promising young stars, will compete for China in this year’s competitions after turning her back on Team USA. She is pictured in January at the Toyota US Grand Prix Mammoth Mountain
Gu is pictured with her Chinese mother, Yan. She was born in San Francisco and grew up there. Her father, reportedly American, has never been publicly mentioned
In 2019, at the age of 15, Gu announced plans to compete for China in the Olympics, not the US. She said she wanted to inspire a generation of Chinese youth at the Beijing Games
After Gu landed in China last week, Gu delighted fans on Weibo – where she has 1.3 million followers – with a photo of some dumplings
CHINA’S CITIZENSHIP LAWS – DOUBLE NATO NATIONALITY PROHIBITED
Unlike the US, China does not recognize dual citizenship – anyone wishing to claim Chinese citizenship must swear full allegiance to the country.
For people like Gu, who became naturalized in 2019 through her mother, it means that they cannot also enjoy nationality in other countries.
In the past, it has led some stars to relinquish their western citizenships.
For many, the lucrative opportunities in the Chinese market are greater than those in the West.
That’s what drives some to prefer China over North America and Canada.
Gu’s case is more complicated because she made the switch when she was 15, and according to the State Department, a minor cannot legally renounce citizenship until he is 16.
It remains unclear whether she has ever formally renounced her US citizenship, or whether China is aware of her citizenship.
Neither Gu nor the State Department will comment.
In interviews, she doesn’t seem to recognize or discuss the massive conflict between representing one of America’s longest-standing enemies and cashing in on her celebrity.
“When I’m in America, I’m American. When I’m in China, I’m Chinese,” Gu, who speaks fluent Mandarin, said in an interview with Red Bull’s Bulletin recently.
When she landed in Beijing last week, she stopped by Weibo to tell fans that she had just finished a plate of dumplings.
Gu’s decision to leave Team USA and compete for China appears to be related to the rate at which skiing is expanding as a celebrity sport there.
When China hosted the Winter Games in 2015, the country announced plans to open at least 800 new ski resorts.
Gu — who had grown up in San Francisco but traveled to China every year as a child — said she wanted to be a part of that growth.
“At first I knew everyone in the park because there were only ten or twenty of us in the entire country. Now it is the trendiest place to be.
“In the US I grew up with all these idols and I wanted to be that for someone else,” she said in an interview with Red Bull.
She has made no public comment or acknowledged how China treats its athletes, let alone about the long-standing tension between the US and China.
Gu is ‘everywhere’ in China, according to international journalists now on the ground in Beijing
Gu is much better known in China than in the US, despite having partnerships with major US brands. Her Weibo account appears
Her mother Yan, who travels with her on private jets to sports matches and fashion shows, did not immediately respond to questions from DailyMail.com on Tuesday morning.
It is unclear what endorsement deals or sponsorship she has received from Chinese companies,
In China she is called ‘the snow princess’.
She was guest editor of this month’s issue of Vogue plus, an online offshoot of Vogue China, where she talked about the internal “code swap” of balancing her American and Chinese identities.
She also recently appeared on the cover of Elle China.
According to Red Bull, she appears in promotional videos for the Olympics, running along the Great Wall of China while carrying the Olympic torch.
Gu attended the University of San Francisco High School, a private school where the cost is $54,130 per year. It is not clear whether she had a scholarship. She is shown with her grandmother at her graduation
Gu still has partnerships with American brands such as Tiffany’s, Cadillac, Victoria’s Secret and Visa
Gu is one of the new Victoria’s Secret ambassadors. She was signed after announcing her decision to fight for China
The teen celebrated her 18th birthday on a sheik’s boat in Dubai. Her mother took this photo and posted it on social media to thank his ‘highness’ for having them on board
Eileen Gu at the Met Gala in September. She thanked Victoria’s Secret and Tiffany’s for sending her to the event, along with Anna Wintour for the invitation.
Those videos don’t appear to be online, which fits with China’s strong hold on what is published about them.
The State Department did not respond to questions about her citizenship on Tuesday.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal profile of hers, Red Bull previously published that she had given up her US passport to fight for China.
Red Bull subsequently changed her biography to remove all mentions of her citizenship.
She is not the first star to side with China over the US on the international stage.
Last year, Canadian-Chinese actor Nicolas Tse renounced his Canadian citizenship and pledged allegiance to China.
He, like Gu, claimed that he had a duty to inspire Chinese youth and spread the country’s culture around the world.
Even American stars and Hollywood have given in to the Chinese to keep their footing in the gigantic markets there.
John Cena apologized last year after recognizing Taiwan as a country and not a Chinese territory, and lavishly begged his Chinese fans for forgiveness on social media.