ESPN named a young woman who grew up in the United States but competed for China in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing as its “Best Breakthrough Athlete.”
— ESPN (@espn) July 21, 2022
Eileen Gu, 18 —who won two gold medals at the Winter Olympics, one in women’s freeski big air and another in the women’s freeski halfpipe competition, along with a silver medal in the slopestyle event — had announced in 2019 that she would compete for China in the 2022 Olympics. At the Olympics, she dodged questions about whether she had renounced her U.S. citizenship in order to do so, as Chinese law prohibits dual citizenship.
In response to the question, “Did you have to give up your U.S. citizenship to compete for China?” Gu, whose father was American but whose Chinese mother raised her alone with her grandmother, answered:
I’ve always been super outspoken about my gratitude to the U.S., especially the U.S. team. I feel as though they’ve helped me out so much in my development, they continue to support me. And same with the Chinese team. They’ve always been super supportive and they’ve helped me so much. And so in that sense, I think that that speaks volumes to the ability of sport to bridge the gap and to be a force for unity.
When the question was reiterated, she replied, “Yeah, um, first of all, I’m an 18-year old girl. I’m a kid. I haven’t even gone to college yet. I’m a pretty normal person . . .” as Sports Illustrated reported.
“If people don’t have a good heart, they won’t believe me, because they can’t empathize with people who do have a good heart,” she added. “And so in that sense, I feel as though it’s a lot easier to block out the hate now. And also, they’re never going to know what it feels like to win an Olympic gold medal.”
The Wall Street Journal noted in January, just prior to the Winter Olympics, that Red Bull, one of Gu’s sponsors, had posted on its website, “At the age of 15, US-born Gu decided to give up her American passport and naturalize as a Chinese citizen in order to compete for China in Beijing—because Chinese law doesn’t recognize dual nationality.”
The Journal noted that after they contacted Red Bull representatives to confirm that Gu relinquished her U.S. passport, the website elided the statement. When the Journal persisted by asking why the passage had been removed, a Red Bull spokeswoman dodged by answering, “We look forward to watching our friend Eileen Gu compete for China at the upcoming Olympics in Beijing.”
Rule 41 of the Olympic Charter states that athletes must be Chinese nationals to compete for China. “But for a person to successfully naturalize as a Chinese citizen, Article 8 of China’s Nationality Law says that person ‘shall not retain foreign nationality,’” Voice Of America pointed out.