onsdag 16. februar 2022

Eileen Gu: Navigating two cultures, judged by both of them

She is an exceptional athlete who has already won medals in the Beijing Olympics. But the fascination — some might say obsession — with Eileen Gu’s origin story has threatened to overshadow anything she does on the slopes. As the freestyle skier chases gold in the mountains northwest of Beijing, some competing narratives about her have taken hold, from California to China.

Some have the San Francisco native skiing for the Chinese team to secure more lucrative endorsements. In others, she has betrayed the United States, where she was born and grew up, to ski for China, her mother’s native country. And a third: She was way too young to have made the decision to “abandon” the United States for China, where a single misstep could lead a repressive government to restrict her movement or her speech.

The frenzy to “explain” Gu’s choice reflects biases and misunderstandings in the United States about Asian American identity. The stories about Eileen Gu are as much about the people telling them as they are about the athlete herself.