Freestyle ski star Gu Ailing a super idol among Chinese young people for representing true spirit of sport
Published: Feb 03, 2022 11:24 PM
Gu Ailing looks on after winning the Women's Freeski Halfpipe during the Toyota US Grand Prix on December 10, 2021 in Copper Mountain, Colorado. Photo: VCG

Gu Ailing. Photo: VCG

Chinese skier Gu Ailing, also known as Eileen Gu, will make her Olympic debut at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games. The 18-year-old free skier is a rising superstar among Chinese young people, who say Gu should be a world idol who represents sport spirit. 

Being energetic, hardworking and talented are labels of Gu, in addition to Gen Z, mixed-raced and Vogue cover girl. Her energy and efforts in pursuing her dream have inspired many.

"I think she is very cool. She inspired many of my friends to do 'exciting and dangerous' sports such as skiing, ice hockey and motorcycle scrambling," a 14-year-old middle school girl surnamed Fu told the Global Times on Thursday.

The talented free skier won two golds and one bronze at the International Ski Federation Snowboard and Freeski World Championships in 2021, making her the first Chinese athlete to win a world title in both the slopestyle and halfpipe, and also the first rookie to win a gold at such an international event. 

Fractures and torn ligaments have not stopped the youngster from shining on the world stage.

"Looking at her doing freeski is like watching a real version of The Fast and the Furious. She is the new idol among students for her energy and confidence instead of traditional 'idols' who only dance and sing," said Fu.

Of course, the title of world champion is by no means the only highlight of Gu. She is also a student with excellent academic performance. She got a mark of 1,580 out of 1,600 in SAT. She graduated from high school in advance and has been admitted to Stanford University.

But Gu applied for a defer to be fully prepared for the Beijing Winter Olympic Games.

"Although I am younger than others, although I used to be a full-time high school student, if I work hard enough and wish hard for the goal, then I can do anything," said Gu.

"I got to know her from advertisement. The more I know her, the more I admire her. She is able to combine her studies with her sports interests, and she has made it into the Olympics!" said Zhang, a 16-year-old high school student in Beijing.

Gu decided in 2019 to compete for China in the 2022 Winter Olympics, as she wrote on her Instagram at age 15. 

Just two months later, Gu clinched her first world title in the women's slopestyle for China.

"My mom was born in Beijing and emigrated to the US. So, I have very very deep roots in China. I was in China when it was announced that the Olympics would take place in Beijing and being able to feel the energy in the atmosphere. That just made me start thinking at the time when I was 10 or 11 years old. I started thinking about competing for China," Gu said during an interview with CCTV.

Gu also wrote on her social media platform that "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. Through skiing, I hope to unite people, promote common understanding, create communication, and forge friendships between nations."

But Gu was labeled a "traitor" by some in the US on social media for choosing to compete for China. Fu said that calling Gu a "traitor" contradicts what the US advocates for freedom and respect for human rights.

"It used to be that people wanted to be American, so why not accept that people want to be Chinese now?" Zhang told the Global Times on Thursday. 

"She should be an idol for the whole world for setting a good example of dream chasing and hard-working. She is an athlete, and she represents the spirit of sport," Zhang said.

Global Times