TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Teenage skier Eileen Gu (谷愛凌) continues to dodge questions about whether she has renounced her U.S. citizenship, with many American media outlets criticizing her for serving as a propaganda tool for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The 18-year-old was thrust into the spotlight on Tuesday (Feb. 8) when she took gold in the big air competition in Beijing. During the press conference afterward, Gu skirted around questions about her citizenship and the controversy surrounding Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai (彭帥).
Gu, who was born in San Francisco to a Chinese mother and unidentified American father, has become a controversial figure since she chose to join the Chinese Olympic skiing team in 2019, instead of representing the land of her birth and upbringing. At the center of the controversy is the fact that China does not recognize dual citizenship, with athletes who compete under its banner required to renounce their non-Chinese citizenship.
In past interviews, she has avoided directly answering whether she has given up her U.S. passport to compete for China. The official Olympics website states that she has "dual nationality."
In January, her corporate sponsor Red Bull wrote, "Gu decided to give up her American passport and naturalize as a Chinese citizen in order to compete for China." However, when The Wall Street Journal contacted Red Bull about the statement, it was scrubbed from the website.
During Tuesday's press conference, reporters asked Gu on numerous occasions to confirm whether she had relinquished her American citizenship. Each time she provided the same response — that she feels American in the U.S. and Chinese in China.
When a reporter asked, "Are you still a US citizen?" Gu responded by saying, "I've always been super outspoken in my gratitude to the U.S. and to the U.S. team as well. They have been nothing but supportive to me, and for that I am forever grateful." She added: "And same to the Chinese team. They have been so, so supportive of me. And so in that sense, I feel like sport is really a way in that we can unite people. It doesn't have to be something that's related to nationality; it's not something that can be used to divide people."
Another reporter pressed Gu by saying, "We understand that you are trying to unite people through sport, which is a great thing, but you were not clear about your American citizenship and if you live in the US or in China from now on." Gu evaded a straight answer by focusing on her cultural ties to both countries:
"So I grew up spending 25-30% of every year in China. As you guys all know now from me answering questions, I'm fluent in Mandarin and English. I'm fluent culturally in both. I have family coming from Beijing; my mother grew up in Beijing."
She then inserted her standard response: "I definitely feel just as American as I am Chinese. I'm American when I am in the U.S. and I'm Chinese when I'm in China."
The skier then repeated her oft-stated claim that in siding with the Chinese team, her "mission is to use sport as a force for unity, to use it as a form to foster interconnection between countries and not use it as a divisive force."
When asked to comment on the well-being of Peng Shuai, who was watching her in the stands as she captured gold, Gu said, "It's a big honor when athletes from different sports, you know, especially if more widely known sports like tennis, come paying attention to smaller sports like free skiing." She praised the Beijing Winter Olympics as an "amazing platform" for spreading the sport to the rest of the world and said, "I'm really grateful that she's happy and healthy and out there doing her things again."
In an editorial posted by Sports Illustrated, Michael Rosenberg wrote, "Gu got her gold medal and China got its pawn." Rosenberg wrote that China wants Gu to be the face of the games with a "perfect smile" that "makes people forget how China's government really operates."
Fox News host Will Cain excoriated Gu, stating that it was "ungrateful for her to betray, turn her back on the country that not just raised her, but turned her into a world-class skier with the training and facilities that only the United States of America can provide. For her to then turn her back on that in exchange for money is shameful." American Military News responded to Gu's gold medal by posting the headline, "American skier ditches Team USA to compete for communist China in Olympics."
Gu has yet to respond to Taiwan News' request for comment about the status of her U.S. citizenship.