Published: 14:29, February 1, 2021 | Updated: 02:56, June 5, 2023
17-year-old Eileen Gu, next Chinese sports icon?
By Xinhua

Eileen Gu shows her two gold and one silver medals after finishing the women's slopestyle final the first at the 20th annual Aspen X-Games in the US on Jan 30, 2021. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

History has been written by Eileen Gu, and not only once. In just 24 hours, the Chinese teenage skier swept three medals, including two golds, in three events at her first X-Games - a feat accomplished by no rookie in the event's 25-year history.

Eileen Gu switched nationality from the US to China, her mother's home country, in 2019, which allowed her to represent China in international competitions since then

With a bronze medal in big air, followed by two golds in superpipe and slopestyle, Gu makes the freeski world notice her stellar performance and outstanding potential.

Just about one year before the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, the 17-year-old rising star has fixed her eyes on winning golds on home snow and it will be no surprise that Gu makes the next Chinese sports icon if she could continue such great momentum.

A San Francisco native chooses to compete for China

Speaking fluent Mandarin and English, the California-born girl switched nationality from the US to China, her mother's home country, in 2019, which allowed her to represent China in international competitions since then.

One reason to make the decision is no doubt her "deep connection" with China, which stems from her annual trips to Beijing to travel and study from as far back as she can remember.

ALSO READ: Gu makes X Games history with record 3-medal debut

"When I was a child, many people called me a Beijing girl because they said I speak Mandarin with a strong Beijing accent," Gu said in an interview with Xinhua recently. "Every time I went to China, no matter to Beijing or Shanghai, I got a feeling like back home."

But she has one greater ambition as a Chinese skier: to encourage more people in China to get to know and participate in the sport that may not be so popular in the country before.

"China has set a goal to get 300 million people on snow through hosting the Winter Olympic Games, so the Olympic Games mean a lot to the Chinese people and there is burgeoning and explosive opportunity to introduce the sport in the country," said Gu, who, unlike a 17-year-old, often mentioned that one of her motivations is to inspire young girls in China and other parts of the world to try some things they may not imagine before.

One year ago, at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, the first time she was wearing the Chinese uniform at an Olympic event, Gu won gold medals in both halfpipe and big air and silver slopestyle.

Less than a month later, in Calgary, Canada, she won halfpipe and slopestyle to become the first athlete to win back-to-back titles in different disciplines at the same World Cup event.

Now, the freeski prodigy is talked about and loved by many people in China. If she is destined to make a difference, that's already a good start.

Eileen Gu competes during the final of Women's Freeski Slopestyle of Freestyle Skiing at the 3rd Winter Youth Olympic Games in Leysin, Switzerland, Jan18, 2020. (WANG JIANWEI / XINHUA)

A genius in sports, also a straight a student

In a year hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw many sports events canceled or postponed, including the freeski season. Gu has achieved another life goal outside the skiing resort - finishing the three-year high school study in just two years and being admitted to her dream school Stanford with 1,580 points out of 1,600 in the SAT.

What makes a professional athlete also a top student in the classroom? Gu concluded that her secrets are "passion, focus and balance."

"I'm not skiing just for the Olympic Games. I'm skiing for my passion for the sport. I started skiing at a young age because I love the feeling of snow. Only when you do the things you have passion for can you put all your heart into that," said Gu.

"It is the same when it turns to study," she added.

Growing up in San Francisco, Gu's nearest ski resort was Lake Tahoe, which was over a four-hour-drive from her house, meaning that she can only spend the weekend skiing when she was at school.

"I have developed a helpful skill from past years' life, which is doing the homework during the drive to the ski resort," Gu said that what she learned from that experience is to focus on what you are doing and try to improve the efficiency.

Eileen Gu can ski to a world champion, appear on the cover of fashion magazines as a model and even play the piano well

"To balance the two roles, you need to devote your mind to the things you are doing. When you are at school, it's all about study, don't think about other things. When you are skiing, just think about how to improve your moves."

Gu will start her study at Stanford in 2022 to leave one year to concentrate on the preparation for Beijing 2022 scheduled for next February.

No stereotype, life can be diverse

Gu described herself as a pro skier and model on social media, but the two labels are too far away to define her diverse life.

She can ski to a world champion, appear on the cover of fashion magazines as a model and even play the piano well. If we only talk about sports, she also has a wide range of interests, including horse riding, rock climbing and even competitive cross-country running.

In this Jan 22, 2020, handout photograph released by the Olympic Information Services (OIS) of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), shows China's Ailing Eileen Gu Gold Medallist, as she competes during the Freestyle Skiing Women's Freeski Big Air Finalat Leysin Park during The Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games. (BEN QUEENBOROUGH / OIS/IOC / AFP)

"I don't wanna people have a stereotype for me. At such a beautiful age, there is an infinite possibility in the future, so it's important to have a well-rounded life," Gu said. "Like other young people, I also like hanging out with friends and having parties with friends. For me, one of the disappointments in the past year is that we cancel our prom due to the pandemic."

READ MORE: Hurtling toward Olympic glory

Two women have had a great impact on Gu's growing up - her mother and grandmother - whom she described both are "very powerful, very confident and very brave."

"My mom always encourages me to do what I want to do, sometimes she is tolerant of me, and my grandma is more strict, but it was from her I knew that don't be afraid of any challenge, life is just about going ahead," Gu said.

When asked what her dream is after a professional sports career, Gu said she wants to be a gourmet.

It may sound weird? But if you get to know the daredevil girl, you'll find it's a typical Eileen Gu's answer.