U.S.-Born Eileen Gu Calls China Her 'Homeland' After Winning Gold in Beijing

Breakout Olympian Eileen Gu has described her great honor in representing China at the games in her "homeland," in an interview with the Chinese Communist Party's top anti-corruption agency published after her gold-medal event on Tuesday.

Already the country's poster child for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, Gu has risen to icon status and is being presented as a model personality across Chinese society and government. In its exclusive interview with the 18-year-old, also known by her Chinese name Ailing, the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) called Gu one of China's favorite athletes.

Born and raised in California by a Chinese mother and American father, Gu embraces her dual identity and announced her choice to compete for China in 2019. Her decision drew attention in the buildup to the games when corporate sponsor Red Bull wrote, and then deleted, a paragraph about the skier having renounced her U.S. citizenship in order to compete for China, which doesn't recognize dual citizenship.

After claiming her first Olympic gold in the women's freeski big air this week, Gu refused to answer directly at least half a dozen questions about her citizenship and described skeptics as "uneducated" and lacking empathy for scrutinizing her motives. China celebrated her victory as well as her response.

Eileen Gu Proud to Represent 'Homeland' China
Eileen Gu of China performs a trick during practice ahead of the Women's Freestyle Skiing Freeski Big Air Final on Day 4 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics on February 8, 2022, in Beijing, China. In an interview published by the Chinese Communist Party’s top anti-corrupt agency, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, American-born Gu said she was honored to represent China and compete in her “homeland.” Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Gu's interview with the CCP's anti-graft body was conducted before the event but published after her win. In it, she told the CCDI about her dream of competing at Beijing 2022, while the agency—responsible for enforcing loyalty, ethics and lifestyle choices in all party members—highlighted the discipline Gu had displayed in order to achieve her goals and improve upon past performances.

"It is a great honor for me to represent Team China," she said. The Chinese capital, which becomes the first city to host both the summer and winter events, "has always been one of my homes," said Gu in fluent, Beijing-accented Mandarin Chinese. "So, it feels like coming home; it feels like everyone here is my family."

"When I was young, I returned to Beijing every summer," she said, before describing how she had watched the 3,000-meter steeplechase in the city's "Bird's Nest" National Stadium during the 2008 Summer Games, when she was five.

"I am very happy to be competing in my homeland," Gu said.

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Gu is due at Stanford University this fall, but she'll be remembered in China long after the Olympics have concluded, according to Tuesday's profile by Jing Daily, a publication tracking luxury consumer trends in China. The online paper called her a "marketer's dream" and suggested the athlete could become the country's ideal brand ambassador—for both government and fashion.

Having already appeared for Louis Vuitton and Victoria's Secret, Gu will now be courted by a number of Chinese businesses hoping to capitalize on her popularity, it predicted.

"Considering the crackdown on celebrity culture in China, it is not too far of a stretch to see Gu as the 'savior' of the celebrity branding trend," Jing declared. "Luxury brands that found themselves in hot water because of celebrity scandals can easily avoid future offenses by partnering with Gu."

In this sense, the involvement of the CCP's discipline watchdog is telling. In December 2021, the CCDI used as an example the headline-grabbing celebrity scandal of Taiwanese-American pop star Wang Leehom, whose estranged ex-wife had accused him of compulsive cheating.

"The recent case of the collapse of a celebrity's image has once again proven that the words and actions of public figures receive a lot of attention and their actions make an impact on society," the agency said, reported Hong Kong's South China Morning Post.

"If these stars do not discipline themselves, they will not be respected by others. They will eventually pay for their evildoings," it said.

But for China's American-born skier, whom the public now calls the "snow princess," her prospects appear good. "Undoubtedly, Gu will earn millions if she continues to avoid controversies and win gold medals at the upcoming Olympic games," Jing wrote.

Eileen Gu Proud to Represent 'Homeland' China
Gold medalist Eileen Gu of China celebrates during the Women’s Freestyle Skiing Freeski Big Air medal ceremony on Day 4 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics on February 8, 2022, in Beijing, China. In an interview published by the Chinese Communist Party’s top anti-corrupt agency, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, American-born Gu said she was honored to represent China and compete in her “homeland.” Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Following her medal-winning performance on the ski run on the outskirts of Beijing, Gu told reporters she was comfortable and confident in her choice to compete for China and ignore her doubters.

"I know that I have a good heart, and I know my reasons for making the decisions I do are based on a greater common interest and something I feel is for the greater good," she said. "If other people don't really believe that that's where I'm coming from, then that just reflects that they do not have the empathy to empathize with a good heart, perhaps because they don't share the same kind of morals that I do."

"In that sense, I'm not going to waste my time trying to placate people who are, one, uneducated and, two, probably never going to experience the kind of joy and gratitude and love that I have the great fortune to experience on a daily basis," Gu said. "If people don't like me, that's their loss. They're never going to win the Olympics."