Five things you didn't know about freestyle skiing prodigy Gu Ailing Eileen
One year on from winning two gold medals in big air and halfpipe at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games, in addition to slopestyle silver. Gu is well on the way to becoming a winter sports superstar.
The San Francisco native, who goes by Eileen Gu in the US, first gained global attention when she started competing in senior competitions as a 13-year-old.
Two years later in 2019, she won her first World Cup event in Seiser Alm, Italy, in slopestyle before switching allegiances to her mother’s birth country China.
But how well do you know the freeski prodigy? Here are five things you may not be aware of.
1 - Self-styled ‘Beijing girl’
Gu’s breathtaking freestyle skills aren’t the only thing that make her unique.
The half Chinese, half American prodigy can speak Mandarin - her mother’s native tongue - without an accent, which turns a lot of heads when she is in China.
“When I'm in China, I'm Chinese,” Gu told Olympic Channel at the Lausanne 2020 Youth Winter Olympics. “When I’m in the US, I’m American.’
Her language skills and ‘deep connection’ to the Asian nation no doubt stem from her annual trips to Beijing to travel and study, from as far back as she can remember.
Gu often highlights that one of her main sporting motivations is to bring her two cultures closer together through sport and inspire young women in China to try extreme sports - which have only existed there for two decades.
2 - Diverse sporting talent
Growing up in sunny San Francisco, Gu’s nearest ski resort was over four hours from her house, meaning she only spent ‘a sixth of her time skiing’ when she was at school.
Gu’s other sporting pastimes included horse riding, rock climbing, and even competitive cross-country running!
3 - Top of the class
Gu was just as talented in the classroom as she was on her skis.
In order to accelerate her progress towards competing in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, the young athlete decided to complete two years of academic work in 2020.
She achieved her goal, and became the first person in her school’s history to graduate early, meaning she can now devote all her time to the snow!
Given what she has achieved in the sport with limited time on the mountain, Gu now has more opportunity to realise her full potential. Scary.
4 - Her other job...
Gu describes herself as a ‘pro skier’ and ‘model’ on her Instagram page.
From glossy magazine covers to showing off the latest designer ski wear, it is clear that big brands are clamouring to be associated with her.
“It’s a totally different world from skiing, and I think that’s just another part of it,” she told Olympic Channel.
“I think it’s really important to have a well-rounded life, and to be able to do multiple different things. I enjoy doing it - I love it. I went to Paris Fashion Week in 2019 which was probably the best week of my life… no offence, skiing!” - Gu Ailing to Olympic Channel
Check out our interview with her from the Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympics below.
5 - Growing influence
In November 2020, Forbes included the two-time Youth Olympic Games champion in their China 30 Under 30 entertainment and sports list.
Not only that, but Gu was the youngest of the nine athletes who made the cut.
"So beyond grateful and humbled to be the youngest person listed," Gu wrote on social media.
With dual nationality and a growing digital influence in both sport and wider society, we can’t see her coming off this list any time soon!