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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Topic of dual citizenship revived at this year’s Winter Olympics

Eileen Gu, along with other American-born athletes, represented China for the Beijing Olympics 2022

By Katherin Raygoza- sports@theaggie.org 


The Winter Olympics kicked off on Feb. 4 and recently, there have been headlines regarding nationality and an athlete’s ability to compete for two different countries. News stories have emerged about 18-year-old Eileen Gu, who was born in the U.S. and won gold representing China’s Olympic team. She is one of many Chinese-American Olympians straddling between two countries, and some people have questioned whether athletes are allowed to do this or why they would do this.

“There are those who love her, moved by her ability to soar over treacherous slopes with ease,” wrote Ashley Wong from The New York Times. “Others are inspired by her efforts to navigate the uneasy political tension between two countries and cultures. Some believe she chose to represent China simply to cash in on the lucrative opportunities it has afforded her.”

Gu or Gu Ailing — “Snow Princess,” as she is known in China — was born in San Francisco to a Chinese mother and an American father. She began skiing at the age of eight on weekend trips. American-born Gu has talent that allowed her to grow as a skier and was finally able to land the double cork 1620 — a move in which skiers spin 4 ½ times while rotating 20 plus feet in the air. 

Chinese fans have been very supportive of Gu’s success and are proud to watch a Chinese win gold for their country, as opposed to her birth country which criticizes her decision. 

“It’s very cheering. She’s of Chinese origin and has returned to China. I feel proud of her,” said Jiang Yu, a Beijing resident and a Gu fan.

This is a great accomplishment for the skier, as she became the youngest freeski Olympic gold medalist in history and the first action-sport athlete to win three medals at the same Olympics. Despite her accomplishments, she is being called a traitor and ungrateful.

She has also received backlash on social media because users are arguing that she cannot be American if she competes for China. Some are saying that she must pick between identifying as American or Chinese.

“I’m an 18-year-old out here living my best life. I’m not going to waste my time trying to placate people who are uneducated, and don’t experience the gratitude and love I have on a daily basis,” Gu told The Guardian.

Some dual citizens face the same challenges as Gu, and it has been seen all throughout sports, especially during the Olympics. That is why there has been a set of rules created which indicate that if a competitor who is a citizen in two or more countries, they have the freedom to represent the country they desire. They cannot represent a country if they play for a different country in other events like the Olympic Games, continental or regional games or world or regional championships. Once they compete in those games, they cannot change the country that they represent.

An athlete can be exempt from these rules under certain circumstances. For instance, if an athlete has gained a new citizenship or wishes to change their Olympic status, they can do so if three years have passed since they competed for their previous country.

There is an especially large controversy with China because they have 30 foreign-born athletes competing in the 2022 Winter Olympics. Olympians in China must follow specific rules since they do not allow dual citizenship. So the question remains whether American-born athletes are following the rules or simply have been exceptions to compete. Are they allowed to be U.S citizens while competing for Team China?

It has appeared that the Chinese Government has loosened their strict laws on nationality to attempt to win more medals. Other than Gu, about half of the Chinese Men’s Hockey Team are American and all maintain their U.S citizenship.

“I told China that I’ll never give up my [U.S.] passport, and they said that’s fine,” said goalie Jeremy Smith, a Michigan native who’s eligible to represent China due to a stint with Chinese club Kunlun Red Star.

Other countries have used naturalized foreign athletes for decades, but very few have laws as strict as China’s. Regardless, China is slowly relaxing their rules, but it seems they still require a particular allegiance, such as Chinese players using Chinese names and not speaking in English during interviews.

Competing for a country that is not where the athlete was born is not a new concept. Many Olympians take pride in having a diverse background and are given an opportunity to compete for a national team that can utilize their talent. Still, it seems as though the topic will always stir headlines.


Written by: Katherin Raygoza — sports@theaggie.org




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