The Beijing Games have been a thrill for three-time medalist Eileen Gu, but the American-born skier has faced some harsh criticism for her decision to represent China on the Olympic stage. Among Gu's many critics is former United States ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who has not been shy in voicing her displeasure with the 18-year-old.
In an interview with RealClearPolitics, Haley, the first female governor of South Carolina, admitted that she has not watched a second of the 2022 Olympics, and accused Gu of “standing for human rights abuses.”
“In terms of the citizenship, look, China or the U.S.? You have got to pick a side. Period,” Haley said. "You’ve got to pick a side, because you're either American or you're Chinese, and they are two very different countries.”
Haley believed that the serious human rights allegations against China should’ve been enough to convince any athlete not to put on the Chinese colours at the Games.
“I can't get the images out of my head of people on their knees, blindfolded, knowing what's about to happen to them,” Haley explained. “I can't imagine in any way supporting that or propping up China.”
Gu is already the most dominant women’s freestyle skier in the world. Born in San Fransisco, she had the choice to represent either the United States or China thanks to her mom’s Chinese citizenship. The youngster ultimately decided to represent the host country, and her choice has been a polarizing topic throughout the Games.
Gu has done her best to avoid most questions surrounding her citizenship throughout the Olympics, but in an interview with Reuters, she did admit that China still feels like home to her.
"So I grew up spending 25-30 percent (of my time) in China. I'm fluent in Mandarin and English and fluent culturally in both," Gu told Reuters. "So coming here, I really feel there was a sense of coming home. I feel just as American as Chinese. I don't feel I'm taking advantage of one or another. They understand that my mission is to foster a connection between countries and not a divisive force."
Gu won a trio of medals in Beijing, including gold in both the women’s halfpipe and big air competition. Her triumphant Games made her the first-ever "action sports" athlete (freestyle skiing or freestyle snowboarding) to win three medals in a single Olympics.
She is planning to attend Stanford University in the coming year while she continues her freestyle skiing career.
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