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Eileen Gu, US-born ski star competing for China, has reportedly raked in loads of cash from Chinese sponsorship deals: 'You’ve got to pick a side'

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Xiao Yijiu/Xinhua via Getty Images

Critics found more fodder for their critique of Eileen Gu this week as reports surfaced showing the ski superstar — who was born and raised in the U.S. but is competing for China in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics — has benefitted heavily from her decision to suit up for Team China.

What are the details?

Gu, 18, has drawn intense backlash from many Americans over her decision to compete for the communist country in this year's Games, especially considering that under International Olympic Committee rules and Chinese citizenship requirements, she would have had to renounce her U.S. citizenship and become naturalized in China in order to compete.

Gu has so far stayed mum on the topic and meanwhile is "laughing all the way to the bank," according to Yahoo Sports.

Yahoo, citing Chinese news outlet Tianxiashangwang, reported on Tuesday that since the start of 2021, the freestyle skier has raked in more than $42 million in sponsorship and endorsement deals.

According to Business Insider, at least $31 million of that total has come from more than 20 deals with Chinese companies — including Bank of China, China Mobile, milk company Mengniu, and Luckin’ Coffee. Campaignasia.com reported that a single endorsement deal with the skier costs about $2.5 million.

Reuters added that sales of her red Anta ski suit surged 20-fold on Chinese e-commerce platform JD.com and that Luckin' Coffee sold out of her endorsed drinks shortly after she won gold in the freeski big air event last week.

The impressive sum is only expected to grow by leaps and bounds considering Gu's success so far in the Olympics. On Tuesday, she followed up her gold medal performance by notching a silver medal in slopestyle, and she still has a halfpipe event to come.

What else?

"She is the golden star for the country with the fastest-growing economy," American expert Mike Hanley said, according to Yahoo, adding, "She can be the Tony Hawk of winter sports in China."

"She’s going to be as big as Yao Ming was," noted publicist Jeff Ruffolo. "These Olympics are going to be her NBA."

In China, Gu is known as the "Snow Princess." After her gold medal run last week, her victory dominated searches on Weibo, China's version of Twitter, with more than 90,000 comments being posted in less than 30 minutes. The traffic reportedly caused the social media platform to temporarily crash.

Her newfound superstardom in China, though lucrative, is considered to be the likely motivation for her apparent defection from the U.S. And her decision to compete for a country that restricts freedom for residents and is known for its human rights abuses has roiled some, including former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley.

"In terms of the citizenship, look, China or the U.S.? You have got to pick a side. Period,” Haley told Real Clear Politics’ Phillip Wegmann in an interview published Tuesday. "You’ve got to pick a side because you’re either American or you’re Chinese, and they are two very different countries. Every athlete needs to know when they put their flag on, you’re standing for freedom or you’re standing for human rights abuses."

Former Missouri lawmaker Claire McCaskill added last week, "I don't get it. And never will. I think it is wrong for an American to compete for China."

"China represses free speech," she said, and "is well known for their human rights violations," in reference to the country's forced labor tactics against the Muslim Uyghur population in the northwest region of China.

"Did she abandon her U.S. citizenship or not?" McCaskill asked.

Gu has refused to answer questions about her citizenship, saying only that she feels American when she's in America and Chinese when she's in China. China does not allow dual citizenship.

Anything else?

Gu was born and raised in California and plans to attend Stanford University in the fall. She was born to an American father and a Chinese mother.

In 2019, she announced that she would compete for China in the upcoming Winter Olympics as a way to unite two countries and inspire young Chinese girls.

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