Eileen Gu is an American-Chinese athlete and luxury fashion model, who is known for dominating the international Freeski games. She is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and world champion in Freeski. In February 2022, at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, she became the first freestyle skier to win three medals at a single Games.
Eileen Gu was born on Wednesday, 3 September 2003 (age 18 years; as of 2021) in San Francisco, California, USA. Her zodiac sign is Virgo. She completed her high school a year early from San Francisco University High School and applied for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program scholarship, which she failed to receive. She had a high SAT score of 1580 and has a deferred entry at Stanford University in view of the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022. She grew up in San Francisco’s exclusive Sea Cliff neighbourhood, in a house that had a view of the Golden Gate Bridge that she shares with her mother and grandmother. She often used to visit Beijing, China, which is her mother’s home country during the summers.
Eileen was born and brought up in San Francisco, California, USA and used to visit her mother’s home country China every summer. She represented the USA in slopestyle skiing at the international level in 2018-19. Reportedly, she has become a naturalised Chinese citizen and she talked about it in one of her Instagram posts where she mentioned that she would represent China in the upcoming International games.
However, she never officially gave up her American citizenship and has a deferred entry to Stanford University till the summer of 2022 whereas, China does not provide its citizens with the option of dual citizenship. This created a lot of confusion and buzz in the American as well as Chinese media. Upon being asked repeatedly about her nationality, Eileen maintained her silence on the topic and glossed it over by giving diplomatic statements such as she is Chinese when she is in China and American when she is in America. This topic of nationality has brought her both positive and negative publicity. She has earned a huge fanbase in China, where people are proud of her for staying true to her ethnicity and on the other hand, American citizens have poured hate on her for neglecting her birth country. Fox News Fox labelled her the “ungrateful child of America.”
Height (approx.): 5′ 6″
Weight (approx.): 50 kg
Hair Colour: Brown
Eye Colour: Brown
Figure Measurements (approx.): 30-26-32
Not much information is available regarding her father other than the fact that he is an American and a Harvard graduate. Her mother, Gu Yan, the daughter of the former chief electrical engineer of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development of China, immigrated to the USA after studying chemistry and biochemistry at Peking University in the 1980s. She earned a master’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from Auburn after which she continued her education at New York’s Rockefeller University and at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. She was a ski instructor at a resort near Lake Tahoe and it was her dream that made her put her daughter Eileen at ski training at the age of 9.
Her grandmother’s name is Feng Guozhen and she lives with Eileen and her mother Yan Gu.
As an Athlete
Eileen was 3 years old when her mother took her skiing for the first time. She began skiing at the age of 9 when her mother enrolled her in ski lessons at Lake Tahoe. She represented the USA in January 2019 at the International Freeski events. She stood second in the slopestyle event in France and came first in Italy.
Later in June 2019, she announced that she would be playing for Cina in the upcoming Winter Olympics 2022 through her Instagram post.In the Lausanne 2020 Winter Olympics, she won 2 gold medals in the big air and halfpipe events and a silver medal in the slopestyle event of Freeski. In 2021, she became the first woman to earn 3 medals on her debut performance at the Winter X Games in Aspen, where she earned 2 gold medals in the superpipe and slopestyle and 1 bronze in the big air category making her the maiden Winter X Games champion of China.
She again made a record by becoming the only athlete who earned 2 gold medals at the International Ski Federation’s Freeski and Snowboard World Championship in Aspen in 2021. She took home gold in halfpipe and slopestyle and bronze in the Big Air event.
She once again displayed her skills at the International Ski Federation Freestyle Ski World Cup at Mammoth Mountain in the United States in January 2022 by remaining undefeated in the entire season and gaining victory in all 4 games in the women’s halfpipe event. She also earned second place at the women’s Freeski slopestyle in the season.
For the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022, Eileen became the poster girl. She earned a gold medal in the women’s Freeski big air event.
During the event, she performed a right double 1440, which consists of four rotations, in her first run. She then did a stunning left double 1620, which she never even practised. It is the biggest and the highest-scoring trick, which involves four and a half revolutions in the air and shifting twice from the axis.
After earning a silver medal in the slopestyle event at the Winter Olympics 2022, she was elated. She said,
More than anything, to be able to be at the Olympics, to grab a silver medal after a gold medal, you know, this is absolutely a dream come true, and to be able to represent the sport and represent women’s skiing on such a large platform has always been my biggest goal.”
On 18 February, Eileen created history when she won her third medal, a gold, at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics; she won this medal in the halfpipe final at Zhangjiakou’s Genting Snow Park. An elated Gu, while reacting to this achievement, said,
Just like this all coming together, years and years in the making and it’s like letting out a deep breath. I feel exhausted. I mean, God, from opening ceremony until now I’ve been skiing every single day so I’m really tired, but I feel at peace. I feel grateful. I feel passionate, and I feel proud.”
As a Model
Eileen is a professional model with IMG Models, the agency that represents popular international models, such as Bella Hadid, Kate Moss and Hailey Bieber. She is an established model, both in America as well as China. She has been the face of various major brands such as Louis Vuitton, Victoria’s Secret and Tiffany & Co., luxury Swiss watchmaker IWC, and cosmetics brand Estée Lauder.
She has made her presence in various A-list fashion shows, including Paris Fashion Week, Louis Vuitton’s front row, and Met Gala. She has established herself as a hugely bankable model in China and has worked for Chinese TV ads to billboards and even for milk cartons (the face of Inner Mongolia-based Mengniu Dairy). She has also modelled for brands like China Mobile, E-commerce giant JD.com, Bank of China etc. She has been featured on the cover of top fashion magazines such as GQ and Elle.
While featuring on the cover of Vogue Hong Kong, she said,
The fashion world has helped balance my training.”
Just like skiing, modeling requires incredible expression and personality. It requires creativity, confidence, and the ability to learn and adapt… The transition between modeling and skiing became a break and a practice for each other that helped me eventually feel more motivated in each area.”
Eileen posted her Olympic look book on Instagram under which a follower commented that she has been getting preferential treatment from the Chinese government as the citizens of China are not allowed to use Instagram (banned in the country). Eileen was a little too quick in replying that people in China can use VPN (a way to skirt the firewall of the country by hiding the location of the user, which is illegal). The screenshot of these comments took to Weibo (Chinese version of Instagram) and got viral. However, the Chinese government took quick action after which all the posts showed a blank screen instead of the comments.
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- gold medals in the big air and halfpipe at 2020 winter Olympics
- two gold medals at the International Ski Federation’s Freeski and Snowboard World Championships in the halfpipe and slopestyle events (2021)
- three medals on debut – golds in the superpipe and slopestyle and bronze in the big air at the Winter X Games (2021)
- gold medal in Freeski big air at 2022 Winter Olympics
- silver in the women’s Freeski slopestyle at 2022 Winter Olympics
- regarded as the poster girl of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics
Before 2021, Eileen took an endorsement fee of about US$1 million which increased to US$2.5 million after tax by the end of November 2021. She signed an estimated 20 endorsements in the year and earned approximately 40 million US dollars.
- According to Eileen, she never skied more than 65 days a year until she graduated from San Francisco University High School.
- Before her sheer brilliant performance at the Winter X Games in Aspen 2021, she declined the offer to perform at the X Games in Aspen 2020 in order to complete her schooling.
- Red Bull featured her in a TV documentary ‘Everyday Eileen’, which is a series about her journey through the 2020-2021 season. The series also features her way of competing with a fractured finger and torn ulnar collateral ligament and being victorious at the World Championships.
- She was one of the most heavily sponsored athletes with over 20 commercial partnerships in the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022.
- Although born and brought up in the USA, she is very fluent in Mandarin and has a good knowledge of the Chinese culture and customs due to her visits to the country every summer with her mother and grandmother.
- After performing in the qualifier round of the big air event, Eileen showed the reporters a black jacket that she designed which had a golden dragon on it and told the reporters in Mandarin that she designed it with Chinese elements.
- Eileen is known as Gu Ailing in China. She has been nicknamed the ‘Snow Princess’ and the ‘Frog Princess’ which stems from a green helmet she once wore in competition. She is also called Guai Ling, Xueba, and Genius Girl in China.
- Eileen’s life is based on duality, whether in terms of being a Chinese national or an American national, being an athlete or a fashion model, being a teenager or a world-dominating champion. Addressing the same, she wrote on Instagram,
A quality I’ve found myself tapping into time and time again as I display different facets of myself (athlete, model, student, Chinese, American, teenager, writer, public persona, etc) in different environments. Everyone code switches, and I think it’s time we start celebrating that multifaceted nature.”
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