Eileen Gu’s English and Chinese responses to media questions have been confident, polished and curated. They are particularly impressive given she is just 18 years old. Gu has clearly put a lot of forethought into her responses for difficult, yet predictable questions about geopolitics. Her responses can sometimes be sassy, sometimes idealistic teenish (and good on her), but don’t ruffle too many feathers and will resonate with both Chinese officials and consumers. Here are some examples:
“There’s a tower here you can see from the top of the course, and you can also see from my house in Beijing,” connecting with Chinese consumers and reinforcing her authenticity talking about the months she spend in Beijing most years as a girl.
“I feel as though I use my voice as much as I can in topics that are relevant and personal to myself and targeted toward people who are willing to listen to me,” she said. “I’m also a teenage girl, so I do my best to make the world a better place. And yeah, I’m having fun while doing it.” Answering prickly geopolitical questions.
“I’m American when I’m in the US and Chinese when I’m in China. Both continue to be supportive of me because they understand my mission is to use sport as a force for unity,” is a common response to her nationality. She will sometimes follow up with something like: “I do corks in an icy, 22-foot, U-shaped snow structure. That’s not political. It’s pushing the human limit, and it’s connecting people,” preempting avoidance of political questions.
“I chose to ski for China because there’s this massive opportunity to spread the sport to people who haven’t even heard of it before. And honestly, I have met my goal. There are 300 million people on snow [in China], and to have even influenced a tiny fraction of that makes me immensely proud.”
“I’ve gotten a lot of hate, a lot of people saying ‘It’s a question of loyalty and which country she likes more.’ It’s really not. It was really a big thing between the impact I would be able to have and what I’d be able to do with skiing.”
“I am extremely thankful for U.S. Ski & Snowboard and the Chinese Ski Association for having the vision and belief in me to make my dreams come true. I am proud of my heritage and equally proud of my American upbringing. The opportunity to help inspire millions of young people where my mum was born, during the 2022 Beijing Winter Games is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help to promote the sport I love. Through skiing, I hope to unite people, promote common understanding, create communication, and forge friendships between nations,” wrote Gu about her decision to leave the US team to compete for China.
“And so I think in that sense, they [the US team] set an amazing example about how sport is something that can connect people from all over the world, and that it is a force to unite people as opposed to divide,” said Gu referring to how the American team view her after leaving for China.
“Here’s the thing – I’m not trying to keep anyone happy – I’m an 18-year-old girl out here living my best life,” said Eileen in reference to a question about how hard it was to keep China and the US happy. This will resonate with a lot of Chinese youth who are fed up with societal pressures, although it is obviously on a different scale.
“No matter what I say, if people don’t have a good heart, they won’t believe me, because they can’t empathize with people who do have a good heart,” she said. “So in that sense, I feel as though it’s a lot easier to block out the hate now. And also, they’re never going to know what it feels like to win an Olympic gold medal,” referring to potential haters and trolls, particularly related to her switch from the US to Chinese team.
“I’ll pass,” Gu said. “There’s no need to be divisive. I think everything I do, it’s all about inclusivity. And it’s all about making everybody feel as connected as possible,” said Gu not being tempted into the rabbit warren of political questions about China. It aligns well with the Beijing Games slogan of Together for a Shared Future and Beijing’s overall messaging around Common Prosperity and a non-unilateral world.
“I’m grateful that she is happy and healthy and doing her thing again,” said Gu referring to questions about Peng Shuai after she watched her gold medal jump. The “doing her thing” reference wasn’t well received by a lot of commentators in the West. Gu said she was “really happy” Peng attended and was honored that a star from a major sport like tennis came to see niche sports like freeskiing.”
“I hope that through my pursuit of the extreme sport, I could enhance interaction, understanding and friendship between the Chinese and American people,” Gu wrote in on her Weibo account, in a similar theme to above.
“With my grandma being really competitive and kind of giving me that winning mind-set, and then my mom giving me the work ethic, I think I honor them by doing my best and by putting my all into it,” connecting with most Chinese kids whose mothers and grandmothers will have been significant in their raising.
“I think she is really amazing, just being able to even come to the Olympics is something that is really impressive, and facing a loss or pressure is part of sports,” said Gu in reference to figure skater Zhu Yi who also switched from the US to China but was met with criticism after two disappointing performances.
“I was hoping that it wouldn’t have to come to that, but it did,” said Gu referring to the double cork 1620 she pulled off to win the gold in the women’s big air freestyle skiing, having never tried it before and becoming only the second women to ever land it. “Honestly, I’m really glad that it did, because I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to try it.”
“I don’t know why I keep doing it to myself. It doesn’t make it easy for myself. It certainly doesn’t make it easy for my coaches. My mom has a heart attack every day. It’s definitely not the easiest. But I’m happy I was able to push through and turn that pressure into fuel,” said Gu in reference to her silver medal in the freeski slopestyle.
“I’ve never taken a victory lap before in my entire life, so I felt like, ‘You know what, last event at the Olympics it feels like I finally deserve it’. I’m really happy,” said Gu after winning the freestyle halfpipe – her second gold and third medal, becoming the first freestyle skier to bag three medals at a single Games.
“It has been two straight weeks of the most intense highs and lows I’ve ever experienced in my life. It has changed my life forever,” she noted speaking to press after her third medal.
“Just like this all coming together, years and years in the making and it’s like letting out a deep breath. I feel exhausted. I mean, God, from opening ceremony until now I’ve been skiing every single day so I’m really tired, but I feel at peace. I feel grateful. I feel passionate, and I feel proud.”
“My biggest goal has always been to give people kind of the opportunity to experience this joy that I get to feel every day and that I’m so grateful that it’s changed my life, especially as a young person.”
“To see the level of care that people have for me, it makes me kind of emotional actually,” noting shouts of Jiayou from the Chinese spectators as she lest the stands in Beijing.
“I’m 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.”
“Beijing dumplings, finished eating all of them,” she wrote on her Weibo account. Chinese love their food, and are proud of it, and often tweet about eating a lot of food on social media. Beijing will be happy that there was no food wastage too!