The success of Asian American athletes at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang has also shed light on the unique struggles many of them face when it comes to racial identity.
Beyond the challenges of training, competitions, and other physical demands of chasing the Olympic dream, these young athletes also rise above prejudice, just as they are coming to terms with their sense of belonging between Asian and American cultures.
In a heartfelt post after winning their medal, Alex Shibutani wrote that when he and his sister Maia Shibutani were starting, others looked at them as “different.”
“Throughout our career (14 years and counting), we have had to, and will continue to push past stereotypes, labels, doubters, and cynics,” he tweeted.
Vincent Zhou, highly touted as the future of men’s figure skating, also had to deal with some ignorant troll questioning his citizenship on Twitter just days before his Olympic ticket announcement.
Chloe Kim, the 17-year-old rising snowboarding star, is also no stranger to such encounters. At a press conference in September, Chloe shared that she would occasionally get the “No, where are you really from?” response after saying she’s from “Los Angeles.” Brought to the spotlight, they are often forced to answer impertinent questions about their race and identity. “Do you identify pretty strongly with both cultures?” a journalist asked Chloe. “I always get that question; it’s never my first answer to say that I’m from Korea or, like, ‘I’m Korean,'” Chloe replied. “It’s always, like, ‘I’m American.’ Like, I feel like I’m pretty—what do they call it, ‘Twinkies’?” A Twinkie is a term used, often pejoratively, to describe a person who might be “yellow” on the outside but White on the inside. Kristi Yamaguchi, who is Japanese-American, told Bleacher Report, “I totally get where Chloe is coming from when she said, ‘I see myself as a Twinkie.’ It’s not because she doesn’t see herself as Asian. I think it’s not necessarily seeing yourself as White. It’s just identifying as American.” Her statement has since been recorded, published, interpreted and scrutinized for public consumption. While they are indeed bestowed with gargantuan expectations of representing the country, they are also young athletes fulfilling their dreams at an age most are still in the process of recognizing who they are. With such supportive parents, these young athletes will undoubtedly do alright on their own terms. “I think my parents felt us being a minority a little bit more than I did, and they tried to shelter me from that so I didn’t feel it at all,” Nathan Chen said in an interview with Team USA last year. Proud of his heritage, Chen expressed his appreciation for the sport that has welcomed Asian Americans with open arms. “As I got older, there were more and more Asian kids at [skating] competitions that I was going to – that felt cool to me.”
Being one of the most popular events in this year’s Olympics, the men’s figure skating competition has got everyone tuned in to NBC’s primetime broadcast on Thursday to watch its coverage.
However, instead of catching Vincent Zhou’s record-setting performance, viewers were shown skiing, which incensed many netizens.
What all of them missed live: Zhou, who has been described as the future of men’s figure skating in the United States, making history as the first person to land a Quad Lutz at the Olympics.
Meet Vincent Zhou.
He’s the youngest member of Team USA competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics and has successfully done something no other figure skater has ever achieved before: landed a clean quad Lutz at the Olympics.
Joining figure U.S. Figure Skating Champion Nathan Chen in the formidable American contingent seeking Olympic glory in South Korea next month is 17-year-old Vincent Zhou.
Chen was earlier assured of the Olympics berth after placing first at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Saturday night.
Vincent Zhou skated his way to the top after winning the the 2017 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships gold medal on Friday in Taipei, Taiwan.
The 16-year-old figure skater from Palo Alto, California, who took home the silver medal at the U.S. senior nationals in January, jumped from fifth place by landing a quadruple lutz and two quadruple salchows — one in combination with a triple salchow — two triple axels and four triple jumps, according to Mercury News.