Skier Eileen Gu Talks About The Importance Of Representation

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Instagram | Eileen Gu

Fatima Araos

Eileen Gu carries a big responsibility on her shoulders as a pro athlete and medal favorite for the 2022 Winter Olympics. The 18-year-old Chinese-American is not only gunning for Olympic glory in freestyle skiing next month in Beijing, she’s also aiming to inspire through representation.

As one of the youngest competitors in her events, a female in a male-dominated sport, and a minority in a game traditionally ruled by white athletes, Gu has the job of representing a diverse mix: young people, women and her race. And she’s only too happy to rise to the challenge.

Representing Young People

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The sports prodigy made her X Games debut in January last year at the age of 17, bringing home two golds and one bronze. In an interview with Highsnobiety, she said, “I was the only rookie there. I was also the youngest competitor in my events. Being able to represent young people and represent women was really meaningful to me, as well as being the first person of Chinese descent to win X Games.”

She also made the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in Sports and Entertainment, the youngest person to be given the honor.

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Representing Women

In her interview, Gu talked about being the only girl in her ski team while growing up, which led her to believe that “being as masculine as possible” was the key to getting ahead in the sport. That changed when she got to know Canadian skier Kaya Turski, who helped her realize that “girls can do it too.”

Talking to Forbes, she said, “My biggest message is just to encourage young girls in sports, extreme sports especially, to break boundaries and not feel too intimated by being the only girl or being the youngest.”

Representing China

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Though Gu was born in the US to an American father and a Chinese mother, she decided to compete for China beginning in 2019. “Skiing is traditionally a very white sport. There's literally nobody else of another race in all of the events that I do,” she said. “I'm the only Chinese representative in this industry. I was the first person of Chinese descent to ever win X Games, and I doubled the medal count for China, X Games history. All of this makes me feel really proud, more than anything.”

On Dieting And Strategies

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With all of this on her plate, how does Gu keep herself in check?

She says she runs almost daily and is not into dieting “because so much of it takes a mental toll and does very little for the body. There’s a really negative diet culture around youth and girls that I want to stay away from,” she said.

Mentally, she finds that keeping a journal helps, saying, “It has allowed me to understand myself more and helped me figure out the strategies that let me stay calm at the top of the competition course.”

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