It seems Olympic gold medalist Eileen Gu and I’ve one thing in widespread. We had been each athletes at College Excessive College in San Francisco. She is likely one of the finest skiers on the earth and I used to be the backup first baseman on the varsity baseball workforce, so the similarity solely goes to this point.
I don’t observe sports activities apart from baseball, so I realized of Gu only some days in the past after I noticed an image of her on our shared alma mater’s Instagram web page bidding her “good luck as she represents China in her first Olympic Video games.”
Very shortly after that, I started seeing articles concerning the controversy surrounding Gu’s reputation and stature — that she is representing China within the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics however was born and raised in the US.
- Given the character of the China-US relationship in the meanwhile, Gu’s choice was sure to generate some model of this response. Some in the US have additional criticized her for refusing to debate politics or tspeak out towards China’s human rights abuses.
The irony of that criticism shouldn’t be misplaced on even the informal sports activities fan — as a result of every time athletes in the US communicate up about racism or different American issues, they’re informed by a big section of the sports activities world some variation of “keep on with sports activities” or, if they’re basketball gamers, “shut up and dribble.” Eileen Gu can also be not the primary American to compete for an additional nation.
It’s not unusual for American athletes to symbolize international locations to which they’ve a household connection or ancestral tie in worldwide athletic competitions, together with within the Olympics, the World Cup and even the World Baseball Basic. Many American-born athletes who compete for different nations accomplish that as a result of it provides them a better alternative to make it to competitions just like the Olympics. And nearly none of them attracts consideration in the US the best way Gu has.
In Olympic competitors, examples abound, going again a long time, of athletes from all around the world competing for different international locations — some after defecting to the US from behind the Iron Curtain earlier than its fall, others as a result of their nations have been damaged by struggle, some as a result of they’ve married and emigrated elsewhere and nonetheless others as a result of they’re on the lookout for a neater path, competition-wise, to their Olympic berth.
Why this California choose must be Biden’s Supreme Courtroom decide Examine Eileen Gu’s expertise to that of Staff Israel from the 2017 World Baseball Basic. The workforce was superb and managed to defeat the Netherlands, South Korea, Taiwan and even Cuba, however they did that with a roster made up nearly solely of People, most of whom weren’t fairly ok to make the US workforce. Gu is totally different, athletically and in any other case.
To start with, she is clearly ok to ski for the American workforce, however she selected China. No one moreover Gu can know for sure why she did this, however it’s clear from her public feedback that Gu identities strongly with each international locations and each cultures. “I positively really feel as if I’m simply as American as I’m Chinese language. I’m American when I’m within the US,
I’m Chinese language when I’m in China. I’ve been outspoken about my gratitude to each the US and China for making me the individual I’m,” she stated Tuesday at a information convention after she received gold within the freestyle snowboarding huge air competitors. (It’s price noting that she stated this in response to a reporter’s query about whether or not she’s nonetheless a US citizen, a query she didn’t handle straight.)On condition that she was introduced up in the US by a mom who raised Gu as a single mum or dad after emigrating from China, that’s not altogether shocking.
Extra placing than Gu’s choice to ski for China is the scrutiny it has gotten right here in the US. Considering the depth of competitors between the 2 powers and acknowledging the legitimacy of the criticism of China for human rights abuses, that degree of focus nonetheless reveals extra about lots of the scrutinizers than Gu herself.
On this regard, Gu has develop into one thing of a geopolitical Olympic Rorschach check. For some, Gu is only a younger lady caught between two international locations making a troublesome choice. For others, it’s laborious to not see the monetary aspect of this. Gu’s success has already added to her appreciable reputation in China. For instance, within the hours after successful her first gold medal, Gu and her accomplishment had been by far the most talked about matters on Chinese language social media.
Critics on social media and commentary pages have framed the choice to ski for China as Gu turning her again on the nation that raised her and casting her lot with an authoritarian regime. Media retailers have portrayed her as a bratty Gen Zer who’s oblivious to the world round her. She could also be just a little little bit of all these items, however she can also be not solely any of them. And lots of of those opinions appear to be grounded in America’s frustration with an ascendant China relative to the US — one thing for which Gu can’t blamed.
Simply as it’s not attainable to know the contretemps round Gu exterior of the present geopolitical local weather, it’s equally not possible to disaggregate it from the present racial local weather in the US. Elevated violence towards Asian People prior to now 12 months or two is said to efforts in charge Covid-19 on China and elevated tensions between the US and China. Criticism of Gu happens on this context as properly (although in fact, Gu made her choice to compete for China three years in the past, so whereas the criticism of her lives in that context, none of it probably influenced her decisions). Central to a lot of that is the notion that Gu is in some way ungrateful for what the US has given her.
Eileen Gu is just the newest athlete whose Olympic efficiency has been extremely politicized, however for a Chinese language American athlete with twin citizenship (type of), that was unavoidable. Perhaps as an alternative of getting offended at an 18-year-old, albeit one who graduated from a really advantageous highschool, extra folks ought to look inward at what’s motivating that anger.
Whereas a lot of the discourse round Gu right here in the US focuses on the politics, her citizenship and what she ought to or shouldn’t be discussing, in China, a youngster is being appreciated for her extraordinary athletic accomplishment and is quickly turning into one of many largest sports activities stars within the nation. For the second, that’s the actual story.