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Eileen Gu speaks onstage at the TIME100 Summit 2022 at Jazz at Lincoln Center on June 7, 2022 in New York City. Credit - Jemal Countess—Getty Images for TIME
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.”
In a time of great geopolitical tension between the United States and China, a prominent Chinese figure helping a U.S. cause is rare. “Having somebody with Eileen’s fantastic profile worldwide, particularly with the youth, is just a dream come true 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. But her success was accompanied by controversy surrounding her decision to ski for China in the Olympics despite being born and raised 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.”
While Gu has been widely embraced inside China, she has faced scrutiny for dodging questions about her nationality and whether she still holds U.S. citizenship. China does not allow dual citizenship, but there is no record of her having renounced her 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.
The TIME100 Summit is the live event extension of the annual TIME100 list of the most influential people in the world. It convenes leaders from the global TIME100 community to spotlight solutions and encourage action toward a better world. 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 editor in chief Sevgil Musaieva, and TIME co-chair and Salesforce chair and co-CEO Marc Benioff.