American athletes compete for China in the 2022 Winter Olympics

American+athletes+compete+for+China+in+the+2022+Winter+Olympics

Ava Brenden, Staffer

In light of the recent Olympic Games, many questions have been raised about athletes competing for different countries, or more specifically, American athletes competing for China. The rules around athletes competing for different countries than where they were born has been a debate for a while now, as many countries feel like they are “owed” an athlete if they were raised there. This issue becomes complicated when introducing the notion of biraciality and whether or not dual citizenship should be recognized, and when the athletes are influenced by which country they were actually born in. 

An infamous example of such a controversy came this year in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games with Eileen Gu, a freestyle skier who won gold in her events and who also chose to represent China. Gu is half Chinese, half white, and despite being raised in San Francisco, California, she skied for China and took home gold. Athletes represent countries other than America for competitive reasons; in other words, they wouldn’t be able to compete with the competition found in the U.S. But Gu was just the opposite; she ended up winning the entire event. So what made her want to ski for her mother’s homeland? 

There are many factors that may have contributed to Gu’s decision to ski for China, but the one that stands by is “connecting people” through her sport, where she hopes to inspire young Chinese girls to pursue skiing, which she describes as “niche.” Gu hopes that by providing representation of a biracial, teenage, elite athlete, others can see themselves in her and feel like they “can do it too.” Many have raised concerns that the true message that Gu may be sending, may be about supporting China amongst the U.S.’s decision not to send diplomats to support Chinese  athletes to protest allegations of human rights violations. 

Another factor that may have contributed to Gu’s decision is the monetary compensation that China presented. While Gu had her sponsorships in America, her stardom skyrocketed when she was introduced as the newest face for Chinese athletics. The athlete/supermodel combo got the best of both countries, as she maintained her many big name sponsorships while also achieving celebrity status in China. According to Yahoo!Sports, Gu has made around $42 million in sponsorship deals, with her rate going around $2.5 million per sponsorship today. 

Aside from Gu, there are many other reasons as to why athletes choose to compete for other countries, such as issues of making the USA team or wanting to represent their heritage, but questions arise when trying to determine who can and cannot compete for other countries. Gu, who has never lived in China, is one of those “in between” cases; while she technically can compete for China, many feel that she shouldn’t be allowed to, as she is American and China does not recognize dual citizenship. 

Regardless, this issue has polarized many, as there are many who feel that athletes should be required to compete for the country that they are from, while others believe that every athlete has the right to compete for wherever they want or may have heritage from. For now, Gu will continue to rack up the hardware for China, leaving America divided and China celebrating.