Anger after Olympic star who ‘defected’ to China scoops award


Chinese Olympic hero Eileen Gu was crowned at the ESPY awards in the US

The knives were sharpened for freestyle skier Eileen Gu once more on social media after she received a prestigious award at the ESPYS.

The teenager came out of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics as arguably the event’s biggest star after claiming three medals for host country China.

However, some have accused the San Francisco-born Gu of being a ‘traitor’ for switching allegiances to China in 2019 ahead of the Games, where she claimed two golds and a silver medal.

It perhaps came as no surprise that Twitter witnessed contempt for Gu when she was awarded the Best Breakthrough Athlete gong at the 2022 ESPYS at Los Angeles’ Dolby Theater on Wednesday.

In being named the winner, Gu saw off competition from four American athletes including NBA star Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies.

The 18-year-old was clearly happy at being handed the award, with her face lighting up before she thanked “all the women” that went before her.

In Cantonese, she also said: “In the end I want to thank all the people who support me.”

The acceptance speech where Gu thanked her single Chinese mother and grandmother was the calm before another social media storm, however.

Republican commentator Matt Whitlock sarcastically congratulated the ESPYS for “nice work” plus the “guys running slave labor camps” for a “great propaganda win.”

Angry podcaster Derek Hunter made a mock announcement as though he was revealing the winner himself, saying: “The best communist sell-out to a genocidal regime for a pile of money goes to…Eileen Gu!”

Also on Twitter, conservative outlet The Daily Caller suggested: “Maybe we should give an award like that to American athletes who don’t support China.”

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Eileen Gu © Zhai Yujia / China News Service via Getty Images
Ski superstar Gu hails being a ‘biracial young woman’ after making Olympic history

Elsewhere, Greg Price noted that ESPN gave the ESPY for ‘Breakthrough Athlete of the Year’ to “the skier who grew up in San Francisco, is a current student at Stanford, but renounced her US citizenship to complete for China at the Olympics”.

The criticism might not ruffle Gu’s feathers too much though, given the popularity she enjoys in China which has exploded since Beijing 2022.

She has already obtained an extra million Instagram followers since her feats, while also boasting a string of endorsements that have targeted the Chinese market in a bid to cash in on her appeal.

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