Eileen Gu is living life on her terms.
The 18-year-old American freestyle skiing star — who’s facing backlash for representing her mother’s native China at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing — made that clear after she won gold in Monday’s Big Air competition, saying she’s not trying to keep everyone happy.
“I’m an 18-year-old girl out here living my best life. Like, I’m having a great time,” Gu said. “It doesn’t matter if other people are happy or not because I feel as though I’m doing my best enjoying the entire process and 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.”
Gu raised eyebrows in the summer of 2019 when she announced that she would represent China in this year’s Winter Games — and since she arrived in Beijing, she’s been under an international spotlight. Her father is American.
“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,” Gu 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.”
According to The New York Times, Gu spent two hours talking to reporters Tuesday, and dodged questions about the controversy surrounding her decision. She was asked “at least six times” about whether she still holds U.S. citizenship, as China does not allow dual citizenship.
Gu never answered the question, The Times said, adding that she discussed support she has received from both countries.
Gu won gold in a historic fashion when she landed a double cork 1620 on her final run, making her the second woman to complete the trick in competition. The impressive move pushed her from third to first place in Monday night’s Big Air competition.
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The teenage ski sensation has a chance to make more history at the Beijing Olympics.
Gu is competing in two more events — the freestyle halfpipe and slopestyle — and could become the first freestyle skier to win Winter Olympics medals in three different disciplines.
Gu is also a model with IMG, having secured high-fashion campaigns with Louis Vuitton and more luxury brands.
“There were no cameras in the gym when I worked out after eight hours of modelling or at 4:00 pm when I hiked up to get the last ski lift so I could try one more jump,” she said.
Gu, who turns 19 in September, has plans to attend Stanford after the Olympics.