Eileen Gu’s announcement that she will become an ambassador for the U.S. Olympic Committee received mostly support from her Chinese fans.
The Olympic freestyle skiing champion announced that she will be aiding the committee in its efforts to host a Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2030 or 2034 at the Time 100 Summit in New York on Tuesday.
Gu described her new responsibility as a “beautiful example of globalism,” noting that the power of winter sports can connect people from different parts of the world.
“I have always said that sports are this unique avenue to global communication, to interconnection and to building those bridges,” Gu was quoted as saying. “It’s this microcosm that really gives me hope for society at large. I think that the Olympics are the biggest platform for that.”
The news immediately became a trending topic on Weibo. At one point, a hashtag related to Gu’s remarks about taking pride in representing China at the Beijing Winter Olympics had been read over 26 million times on the platform.
Many users highlighted how Time referred to the skiing champion as “China’s Eileen Gu,” which they consider to be positive publicity for Chinese sports. Some, however, accused the athlete of betraying Chinese fans.
Another commenter went as far as alleging Gu pretended to be Chinese to get endorsements in China.
Meanwhile, an editorial published in China’s state-run Global Times expressed support for Gu’s decision, highlighting positive comments from Chinese fans.
“It is just the latest example of an athlete from the Chinese delegation becoming an ambassador for a foreign country’s bid to host the Olympic Games, and it is another demonstration of the influence these world-class athletes have,” users purportedly said.
“Awesome! She did what she said she would do: promote skiing around the world!” another user chimed in.
While praising Chinese internet users for having “an open-minded attitude,” Global Times blasted Western media for allegedly “exaggerating” negative discussions on Chinese social media.
The 18-year-old freestyle skier, who won the gold medal in both big air and halfpipe, along with the silver in slopestyle in the Beijing Games, grew up in the U.S. and now represents China in international competitions. She appeared on Time’s most influential people of 2022 list after becoming the youngest freestyle ski champion in Beijing.