Eileen Gu, the Chinese freestyle skiing sensation, is no stranger to standing alone, whether atop a skiing course or as a pioneering figure in her sport. With her burgeoning career as evidence of her resilience, the next peak on her horizon is the Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Gangwon, South Korea, commencing this Friday, with her sights firmly set on the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy.
At just 20, Gu, representing China, made history as the youngest-ever Olympic champion in freestyle skiing at the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022. However, it was at the Winter YOG 2020 in Lausanne that her meteoric rise truly gained momentum, securing gold in Big Air and Halfpipe events and silver in Slopestyle. Recently named the Global Ambassador for Gangwon 2024, Gu emphasizes the unique unity, camaraderie, and cross-sport friendship fostered by the YOG, hoping it will fuel her Olympic aspirations in two years.
Gu’s journey from the YOG to Olympic champion is remarkable. Graduating high school a year early, she earned admission to Stanford University, seamlessly balancing her academic pursuits with skiing. After an injury-induced hiatus in 2023, Gu returned to win back-to-back World Cups in December 2023, showcasing her unwavering commitment.
For Gu, athletics extend beyond physical well-being, profoundly influencing her mental and spiritual aspects. Enduring pressure and learning resilience and sportsmanship, she views these lessons as transcending barriers of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and religion. Recognizing the Youth Olympics’ value, Gu appreciates the shared experiences among athletes of similar age and background, considering it an unforgettable opportunity.
Gu’s training regimen is characterized by an unmatched work ethic, often training relentlessly to push her limits. She attributes her success to a combination of skill and enduring pressure, emphasizing the scarcity of research in coping with pressure.
As an advocate for representation in sports, Gu addresses the pressures she felt as a young girl in a male-dominated terrain park. Despite the challenges, she uses her substantial social media following to amplify the importance of representation and inclusivity, aiming to inspire the next generation of athletes.
While not participating in the upcoming Paris Olympics, Gu speaks enthusiastically about the event’s inclusion of new sports, foreseeing an infectious energy that transcends traditional athletic boundaries. Hoping to inspire aspiring athletes, especially young girls, Gu envisions a future where diverse representation makes sports more welcoming and accessible for everyone.