Eileen Feng Gu (born September 3, 2003), also known by her Chinese name Gu Ailing (Chinese: 谷爱凌), is an American-born freestyle skier. She has competed for China in halfpipe, slopestyle, and big air events since 2019.

Eileen Gu
2020-01-18 Eileen Gu at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics – Women's Freeski Slopestyle – Mascot Ceremony (Martin Rulsch) 18 (cropped).jpg
Personal information
Native name谷爱凌 (Gǔ Àilíng)
Full nameEileen Feng Gu[1]
Born (2003-09-03) September 3, 2003 (age 19)
San Francisco, California, U.S.[2]
Height5 ft 9 in (175 cm)[3]
Sport
Country
  • China China
  • United States United States
SportFreestyle skiing
Event(s)
ClubBeijing Nanshan Ski Resort[4] (since 2015)[5]
Medal record
Women's freestyle skiing
Representing  China
Event 1st 2nd 3rd
Olympic Games 2 1 0
World Championships 2 0 1
Winter X Games 2 0 1
Winter Youth Olympics 2 1 0
Total 8 2 2
Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 2022 Beijing Big air
Gold medal – first place 2022 Beijing Halfpipe
Silver medal – second place 2022 Beijing Slopestyle
World Championships
Gold medal – first place 2021 Aspen Halfpipe
Gold medal – first place 2021 Aspen Slopestyle
Bronze medal – third place 2021 Aspen Big air
Winter X Games
Gold medal – first place 2021 Aspen Superpipe
Gold medal – first place 2021 Aspen Slopestyle
Bronze medal – third place 2021 Aspen Big air
Winter Youth Olympics
Gold medal – first place 2020 Lausanne Big air
Gold medal – first place 2020 Lausanne Halfpipe
Silver medal – second place 2020 Lausanne Slopestyle
Ailing Eileen Gu
Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese

At age 18, Gu became the youngest Olympic champion in freestyle skiing after winning gold medals in big air and halfpipe and a silver medal in slopestyle at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. She is the first freestyle skier to win three medals at a single Winter Olympics. Owing to geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China, her decision to switch from Team USA to China[6] drew international attention at the beginning of the 2022 Winter Olympics. She is the first American citizen with Chinese ancestry to win a Gold Medal in any Winter Olympic event, accomplishing this feat on 7 February 2022. [7]

Time named her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world under the 'Pioneers' category on its annual list in 2022.[8]

Early life and educationEdit

Eileen Gu was born on September 3, 2003, in San Francisco, California, United States,[9] to a Chinese first-generation immigrant mother, Yan Gu (Chinese: 谷燕; pinyin: Gǔ Yàn), and an American father. Chinese media refers to her father as a Harvard University graduate; Gu has declined to comment about him.[10] Her mother gave birth to Gu at the age of 40[11] and raised her as a single parent.[5] A member of the short-track speed skating team and a ski coach, her mother attended Peking University in the 1980s[12] for her undergraduate and master's degrees in chemical engineering.[13] Yan emigrated to the United States as a student in her twenties, enrolling at Auburn University and Rockefeller University. To pursue an MBA at Stanford University, she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where she enrolled Gu in ski lessons at Lake Tahoe and thereby, according to Gu, "accidentally created a pro skier."[14] Yan had a career working for U.S. investment banks and as a venture capitalist between China and California.[15]

Gu grew up in San Francisco's Sea Cliff neighborhood.[12] She attended private K-8 Katherine Delmar Burke School and later San Francisco University High School. Every summer, Gu would fly to Beijing to attend cram school for mathematics.[16] She scored 1580 out of 1600 on her SAT.[10] In 2021, Gu graduated early from high school. She earned early admittance to Stanford University, her mother's alma mater, in December 2020,[17] and began her studies in the fall of 2022.[18][14][17]

Nationality and citizenshipEdit

Gu competed for the United States at the 2018–19 FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup. She has competed for China since June 2019 after requesting a change of nation with the International Ski Federation.[9][19][20][21] Her goal was to compete for China in the 2022 Winter Olympics.[21][22][23] She announced the change on Instagram, stating that through skiing she hopes "to help inspire millions of young people" in China and "to unite people, promote common understanding, create communication, and forge friendships between nations."[21][22]

Gu has declined to disclose her nationality. At a press conference during the 2022 Winter Olympics, Gu sidestepped six different attempts from international reporters to clarify her nationality.[24][25] Gu was born a U.S. citizen. In contrast to the United States, Chinese nationality law does not recognize dual nationality/citizenship.[26][27] The Chinese Consulate General in New York told the BBC that Gu would have to have been naturalized or gained permanent residency status in China to compete for its team,[26] though only naturalization, not permanent residency, would confer nationality and a passport as required by the sport governing bodies.[28][29] The International Olympic Committee confirmed that the Chinese Olympic Committee had presented it with a copy of her Chinese passport as proof of Chinese nationality acquired via naturalization in 2019.[30] There is no evidence that she has given up U.S. citizenship[31] for if she did, her name would have publicly appeared on the United States list of expatriated individuals.[32] Gu referred to herself as American in an interview in May 2022.[33] In other interviews, Gu has said, "Nobody can deny I'm American, nobody can deny I'm Chinese,"[34] and "When I'm in the U.S., I'm American, but when I'm in China, I'm Chinese."[35][36]

Sports careerEdit

 
Her second run in the Women's Freeski Halfpipe Qualification at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics
 
Her first run at Women's Freeski Big Air Qualification, 2022 Olympics

In 2021, Gu became the first woman to land a forward double cork 1440 in competition history.[37]

TrainingEdit

  • Wy’East Mountain Academy - a training facility for Olympic skiers such as Nick Goepper and Alex Beaulieu.[38] According to Mike Hanley, head of school at Wy’East Mountain Academy, Gu's mother paid for the coaching and travel, "These sports are very expensive. So many of the Americans ask for favors. Yan was willing to pay, which is very rare in the action sports industry. She paid for coaching and travel.”[38]
  • Woodward Tahoe - a 33,000 square foot Indoor Action Sports Hub training next-generation athletes in snowboard, freeski, skateboard, BMX, freestyle MTB, and cheer.
  • Jamie Melton, Head coach of the Chinese National Slopestyle and Big Air Training Team, Former Action Sports Coach at Woodward Tahoe. Melton has coached Gu since she was ten years old.
  • Brad Prosser, New Zealand coach[39][40] - Prosser met Gu when she was around 11 years old. In 2018, he became the technical coach guide to the Chinese national team.
  • Misra Noto Torniainen - Gu's personal coach for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and the former coach of the Swiss freeski team.[41] Torniainen had coached Olympic medalists Sarah Höfflin and Mathilde Gremaud for the 2018 Winter Olympics.[42][43]

X GamesEdit

At the 2021 Winter X Games, Gu won a bronze medal in Big Air and two gold medals in SuperPipe and Slopestyle, becoming the first rookie to win a gold medal in Women's Ski SuperPipe, the first rookie to medal in three events, and the first athlete representing China to win a gold medal at the X Games.[44][45][46]

World ChampionshipsEdit

Gu competed at the FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboarding World Championships 2021, winning two gold medals in Freeski Halfpipe and Freeski Slopestyle and a bronze medal in Freeski Big Air. Gu became the first freeskier to win two golds at the FIS Freeski World Championship.[47][48] She competed without poles for the first time due to a broken hand, having fractured a finger and tearing the UCL in her thumb.[49][50][51]

2022 Winter OlympicsEdit

At the 2022 Winter Olympics, Gu became the youngest gold medalist in freestyle skiing, winning the big air event, the first to be held at the Olympics.[52] Gu landed a double cork 1620, her first attempt in competition.[53] She was the second woman to land the trick and the first woman to land a left-turn 1620;[54] Tess Ledeux first successfully completed a double cork 1620 on 21 January 2022 at the X Games in Aspen, Colorado [55] and landed it again in her first run of the big air final at the 2022 Winter Olympics.[56][57]

Gu won the silver medal in the slopestyle event.[58] She won a second gold medal in the women's freeski halfpipe competition, becoming the first freestyle skier to win three medals at a Winter Olympics.[59][60] She was awarded the Best Breakthrough Athlete and Best Female Action Sports Athlete ESPY Awards at the 2022 ESPY Awards.[61]

World Cup resultsEdit

Gu ended the 2021-2022 World Cup season with a perfect record in women's halfpipe, taking her first career crystal globe and becoming the first freestyle skier to win four consecutive World Cup competitions.[62][63][64] She claimed her second crystal globe in the same season, placing first in Park & Pipe overall.[65]

All results are sourced from the International Ski Federation.[66]

Representing Season Date Location Discipline Place
  United States 2018–2019 January 12, 2019   Font Romeu, France Slopestyle 2nd
January 27, 2019   Seiser Alm, Italy Slopestyle 1st
  China 2019–2020 September 7, 2019   Cardrona, New Zealand Halfpipe 2nd
February 14, 2020   Calgary, Canada Halfpipe 1st
February 15, 2020   Calgary, Canada Slopestyle 1st
2020–2021 November 21, 2020   Stubai, Austria Slopestyle 3rd
2021–2022 December 4, 2021   Steamboat, United States Big Air 1st
December 10, 2021   Copper Mountain, United States Halfpipe 1st
December 30, 2021   Calgary, Canada Halfpipe 1st
January 1, 2022   Calgary, Canada Halfpipe 1st
January 8, 2022   Mammoth Mountain, United States Halfpipe 1st
January 9, 2022   Mammoth Mountain, United States Slopestyle 2nd

Results current through 1 February 2022.

Endorsements and modeling careerEdit

Even before the start of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Gu was the face of multiple brands in China.[67] Gu fronts at least 23 brands in China across sports, fashion, and banking.[67] According to marketing expert Jerome Lau, "Gu can be perceived as a bridge for brands to resonate with the consumers in the China market."[67] Gu's status as a leading sports star in China is reported to have earned her over US$30 million in endorsements and advertising contracts.[67][59][68][69] According to media reports, her average fee per endorsement increased from $1 million in 2021 to $2 to $2.5 million in 2022.[67][70]

Gu is represented by IMG Models.[71][17] She has appeared on the covers of magazines such as the Chinese editions of Harper's Bazaar, Elle, Cosmopolitan, GQ, Marie Claire, V, L'Officiel, and Vogue.[1][17][72] Gu has been featured in campaigns for Western luxury brands such as Fendi, Gucci,[17] IWC Schaffhausen,[73] Tiffany & Co., and Louis Vuitton; she is a brand ambassador for the latter three.[71][17][73] She is a founding member of Victoria's Secret's VS Collective[74][75] and a Red Bull sponsored athlete.[9]

Personal lifeEdit

Gu was raised by her mother, Yan Gu, and maternal grandparents.[10] In 2002, a year before Gu was born, Yan Gu's sister Ling died in a car crash. Gu's mother decided to name her 爱凌 (Ailing), literally translating to "Love Ling", in her sister's honor.[76] In China, she uses the nickname "青蛙公主" ("Frog Princess") on her Chinese social media accounts. The nickname comes from a green helmet she once wore during competition.[77]

She speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese and English.[78][79] She plays the piano as a hobby.[71] In May 2022, Gu mentioned that she had recently converted to Buddhism.[80]

Social and political viewsEdit

During the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, Gu has spoken out against anti-Asian racism after the 2021 Atlanta spa shootings and the killing of Vicha Ratanapakdee.[81] She has described her own experience with anti-Asian racism, having endured a man screaming obscenities about "Asians infecting America" with COVID-19 at her and her grandmother in a shop.[81][82] Gu has also stated that she supports the Black Lives Matter movement[78][83] and the right to legal access to abortion.[84] Gu has largely declined to comment on social and political topics involving China, including the country's human rights record.[85][86] Gu's agent Tom Yaps told The Economist that Gu's mother, Yan Gu, feared that "if [Eileen] participates in an article that has two paragraphs critical of China and human rights, that would put her in jeopardy over there. One thing and a career is ruined."[81]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit