The inspiring story of professional freestyle skier and model Eileen Gu

“I guess you could tell I love hard gold (wearing) around my neck,” 18-year-old professional freestyle skier Eileen Gu wrote under a photo she posted on Instagram in November of the last year. In the photo, she shows off a gold necklace from luxury jewelry brand Tiffany & Co., of which she is a brand ambassador.

But this gold necklace is certainly not the only gold she has worn around her neck.

The ski star won two gold in the superpipe and a bronze in the big air at the 2021 X Games, and she was the first woman to do so during her rookie year. During the 2021 Aspen Championship, Gu also won two gold medals and one bronze, becoming the first skier to win two gold medals at the event.

In addition, Gu was the first freestyle skier land a double cork 1440, which she did last year during a training session in Stubai, Austria.

She recently finished the FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup season with a perfect record in the women’s halfpipe event and pocketed her first crystal globe.

The young skier is set to compete for China at the upcoming Winter Olympics and is one of the most prominent athletes in the world.

And she’s not just a professional freestyle skier, she’s kind of a modern day Renaissance woman: Gu was admitted to study at her dream school, Stanford University, and she is also a model who appeared on the cover of Vogue magazine and assisted Parisian Fashion Week.

With less than a month to go before the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, it seems safe to introduce you to Eileen Gu, a freestyle skiing world champion who excels as an athlete, student, model and more.

Accidental ski star

During Roundtable of the Committee of 100 in May 2021, Gu said that his mother, Gu Yan, originally from Beijing, had significantly influenced his journey to the upper echelons of the world skiing scene.

Born and raised in San Francisco, the professional skier was introduced to the snow at the age of 3 months when her mother went skiing and took her on an adventure.

At the time, many people at the ski resort were in awe of Gu’s mother’s passion for snowy slopes, as evidenced by the fact that she was skiing only three months after giving birth. Considering Gu Yan’s love for skiing, it’s no surprise that she enrolled her daughter in ski school at the innocent age of 3.

When Gu was 8 years old, being a self-proclaimed “adrenaline junkie”, she fearlessly skied from the top of a ski station straight down. The incident understandably frightened the elder Gu, although she ultimately decided to put her daughter on a freestyle ski team – presumably to receive proper training.

This chain of events marked the start of his adventure in the world of freestyle skiing.

Over the weekend, she and her mother drove “full weekend warrior style” to Tahoe – four hours drive from San Fran – Friday evening and return home on Sunday.

Due to the long round trips to the ski resort, Gu developed impressive time management skills at a very young age. For example, she learned to do her homework, eat meals and change in the backseat during those long trips.

“Growing up, I always had a good sense of balance and time management, and I tried to capture every second of my life because I was always very busy,” Gu told the panel.

Indeed, in addition to skiing, Gu ran competitively for seven years, played basketball and football, and participated in show jumping competitions.. In addition, she was also a ballet dancer and played the piano for nine years.

Gender equality activism

From 8 to 14 years old, Gu was the only girl on her ski team and she never had a ski girlfriend or coach.

“I think it really touched me at a young age,” Gu said, “Especially being a girl and also being an Asian girl in freestyle skiing – it’s a very white sport. “

At first, witnessing this lack of diversity made him want to go into hiding: Gu even tried to dress like a boy to fit in better with others in the industry. But as she got older, she became more proud of her heritage and identity as an Asian woman.

Additionally, Gu learned the importance of representation, “If I had seen more Asian women or women in sports growing up, I would have wanted to get involved in sports much earlier. “

These experiences encouraged her to change the status quo.

In seventh grade, Gu gave a public speech on gender inequality in sports. Additionally, she began advocating for gender equality in high school by leading discussions about the gender pay gap and the misrepresentation of female athletes in the media.

As one of the most watched professional freestyle skiers, Gu hopes to use her voice to introduce skiing to more girls in China.

“Before Beijing 2022, this is a wonderful opportunity to mobilize more energy around sports culture in China, especially around young girls,” Gu said.

Sport as a force of unity

Raised in a Chinese household, Gu shared on her social media that her grandmother “instilled a competitive nature in her” and that her mother “taught her ambition and work ethic.”

In addition, she is fluent in Mandarin and has visited China every summer since she was little. “I am very proud of my heritage,” said Gu, whose Chinese name is Ailing Gu.

Given the recent rise in anti-Asian sentiments in the United States, Gu is actively using his social media platform to raise awareness of the issue and share resources for the community. She considers her identity as a minority in freestyle skiing powerful because it gives her the opportunity to “educate others on experiences they might not have known”.

“The fact that my own Chinese grandmother may have been the victim of a hate crime that took place in our own city really terrifies me,” Gu wrote on her Instagram story, “It’s not that this pandemic has created these problems: they ‘We have always existed and are now being revealed on a larger scale.

Besides the fight against racism, the professional skier also strives to develop cultural understanding and unite people from different parts of the world. While traveling to Switzerland with five skiers from other countries, Gu suggested cooking a different cuisine every night. As the only Asian skier in the house, she taught others how to make dumplings.

According to Gu, the history of making dumplings with skiers from other countries demonstrates that “sport can be a force of unity.”

In June 2019, Gu announced she was competing for China at the Beijing Olympics in 2022, and the news sent shockwaves across the internet. The decision prompted a racist backlash – including death threats – from some of the worst segments of the internet.

Gu’s high-profile sporting change of allegiance appears to imply that she has renounced her US citizenship. This assumption is based on the fact that Chinese law does not recognize dual nationality and that international sporting events generally require competitors to be a national of the country they represent.

Still, many speculated that she retained her U.S. passport, pointing to an article on her Weibo from March 2021 in which she wrote that she had qualified for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, which only U.S. citizens or permanent residents are eligible. .

Despite speculation and controversy, Gu’s dedication to promoting cultural understanding is unquestionable.

“Through skiing, I hope to unite people, promote common understanding, create communication and forge friendships between nations,” she wrote on Instagram.. “If I can help inspire a young girl to break a border, my wishes will come true.”

Beyond the ski resort

For many, entering Stanford University and being a record professional skier already ticks enough items off the to-do list. But Gu has another project she is passionate about: modeling.

In 2019, Gu was invited to her first fashion week and was enchanted by the creative industry. “I love his creativity, his fun and his personal expression. All of these aspects are very similar to skiing, ”she shared. during the panel of the Committee of 100.

Because she works incredibly hard in everything she does, Gu excels in modeling and has appeared on the cover of Vogue magazine.

The 18-year-old model is also a new Ambassador for iconic jewelry brand Tiffany & Co. and has been featured in campaigns for French luxury brand Louis Vuitton.

She even attended the Met Gala, one of the most well-known events in the fashion industry, which features prominent celebrities, fashion icons and talented designers.

All of these awesome projects and accomplishments might seem overwhelming, but to Gu, she enjoys her lifestyle because it “offers a great sense of balance.”

“On weekends, I fly to New York or LA for shoots or campaigns. It makes everything exciting. I am not bored in everything I do, ”she said.

Indeed, from professional freestyle skier to model, Gu consistently demonstrates her unparalleled work ethic – her passion for everything she does shines with every new venture. We can’t wait to see her kill her on the slopes, as always, in Beijing 2022.

Cover image via Wikimedia

About the author