China’s Olympic freestyle skiing champion Eileen Gu announced Tuesday at the TIME100 Summit that she will serve as an ambassador for the U.S. bid to host the 2030 or 2034 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
“I think that’s this beautiful example of globalism and of the capacity that we can use skiing and we can use sport and we can use winter sport to connect people,” she told TIME senior sports correspondent Sean Gregory in New York City. “Salt Lake specifically wants to become a global destination for athletes everywhere to come train there and they want to incorporate 15 new countries into the Winter Olympics. I think that’s something that’s really beautiful and I’ve always stood for that and so I’m really honored to be a part of the whole thing.”
It is not often that a Chinese leader supports a U.S. cause in these times of high geopolitical tension. “Having somebody with Eileen’s fantastic profile worldwide, particularly with the youth, is just a dream come for us,” says Fraser Bullock, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games.
The 18-year-old Gu said she doesn’t regret representing China rather than the U.S. at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Gu became the first extreme sports athlete to win three medals—two of them gold—at a single Olympic Games earlier this year. However, her triumph was not without controversy. She chose to compete in the Olympics for China despite having been born in the U.S.
Gu, whose mother is from Beijing, announced on Instagram in 2019 that she would be competing for China in the 2022 Olympics to “help inspire millions of young people” in her mother’s home country and “unite people, promote common understanding, create communication, and forge friendships between nations.”
Gu was embraced by China for her love of the country, but she is being scrutinized because she dodged questions about her nationality or whether she holds U.S. citizenship. China prohibits dual citizenship. But, Gu has not renounced American citizenship.
“Every day when I start looking at my social media and I see DMs and I see hundreds of young girls sending me messages saying…’Because of you, I feel like I am better as a person.’ When I read messages like that, it galvanizes me too,” she said on Tuesday. “It’s this positive reinforcing cycle in which it’s not really an idol and a fan, it’s friends moving together….And it’s been this incredible opportunity worldwide. It’s not just in China. It’s in the U.S, it’s in Canada, it’s in Europe. It’s in all these places where free skiing wasn’t visible before and now it is. And that’s the bottom line.”
As for what’s next for Gu, she’s not stopping at Olympic domination. In addition to starting at Stanford University this fall, Gu says she’s in the process of writing a book and is also interested in exploring international relations and quantum physics. “My biggest goal has always just been to leave a positive legacy and to leave the world a little bit better than the way I found it,” she said.
TIME100 Summit extends the TIME100 List of world’s most influential persons to a live event. The summit brings together leaders of the TIME100 global community in order to highlight solutions and inspire action towards a better future. This year’s summit features a variety of impactful speakers across a diverse range of sectors, including politics, business, health and science, culture, and more.
Speakers for the 2022 TIME100 Summit include Apple CEO Tim Cook, producer Mindy Kaling, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-chair Bill Gates, filmmaker Taika Waititi, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, musician Jon Batiste, Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley, NBA champion, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Dwayne Wade, former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, #MeToo founder Tarana Burke, ACLU deputy director for transgender justice Chase Strangio, Christian Siriano founder and creative director Christian Siriano, Brother Vellies founder and creative director Aurora James, Netflix head of global TV Bela Bajaria, author and poet Cathy Park Hong, author, poet, and Mellon Foundation president Elizabeth Alexander, filmmaker Betsy West, filmmaker Julie Cohen, BioNTech SE senior vice president Dr. Katalin Karikó, Ukrayinska Pravda Sevgil Muzaieva, editor in chief of TIME and Salesforce chairs and co-CEO Marc Benioff is also the editor.
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