Eileen Gu Couldn't Care Less About The Beijing Olympics Drama

Despite the decorum and significance of an international event like the Olympics, it seems that drama has become part and parcel of its overall legacy. Consider last year's 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Aside from the oft-commented upon empty stadiums and lack of spectators thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, newsworthy highlights included the controversy surrounding U.S. gymnast Simone Biles' withdrawal from the games in order to prioritize her mental health and the uproar over American sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson's disqualification for a positive cannabis test

Suffice to say, it's never truly the Olympics unless there's scandal or controversy to talk about, and this year's 2022 Winter Games in Beijing haven't disappointed. This time, the main topic of discussion (and for some, derision) is 18-year-old freestyle skier Eileen Gu, an American-born athlete who many assumed would easily place on the Olympic U.S. team as many as three years ago. But in 2019, Gu, who at the time was on the roster for the Team USA rookie team made the conscious decision to compete as a member of China's team instead to honor her Chinese heritage. Previously, Gu held dual citizenship in both the U.S. and China, her mother's country of origin.

Though Gu's departure happened in 2019, the issue arose once again in time for the Beijing Games, amplified by widespread international viewership. And after winning a gold medal on February 8, the conversation around Gu doesn't look like it will be dying down anytime soon.

Eileen Gu says she intends to focus on her victory and ignore her haters

Despite the uproar over Eileen Gu's decision to represent China instead of the U.S. in the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing — a controversy only exacerbated by placing first for women's free ski big air on February 8 — it seems Gu isn't letting her detractors ruin her moment. Speaking with reporters immediately following her gold medal win, the 18-year-old athlete was candid about her plans to own and enjoy her victory in the moment, at least for now. 

"I'm an 18-year-old girl out here living my best life. Like, I'm having a great time," Gu said to the press, per the New York Post. "It doesn't matter if other people are happy or not because I feel as though I'm doing my best enjoying the entire process and using my voice to create as much positive change as I can for the voices who will listen to me in an area that is personal and relevant to myself."

While Gu's remarks are understandable, the ire directed towards her for representing China instead of the U.S. at the Olympics isn't a simple matter of surface-level loyalties. As Slate noted in early February, Gu's desire to pay tribute to her heritage might be admirable, but it's complicated by current geopolitics. China's involvement in the games as a whole has been controversial, in part because of the reported oppression of the Uyghur people, a Muslim minority in China, which groups like Amnesty International have declared a government-mandated genocide.