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Gu an ambassador of sports for shared future

Updated:2022-02-22 12:29:22   China Daily

Chinese athlete Gu Ailing celebrates after the freestyle skiing women's freeski halfpipe final at Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou, North China's Hebei province, on Feb 18, 2022. [Xinhua]

Having won two golds and a silver, US-born freestyle skier Eileen Gu (Gu Ailing) has been the most-talked-about athlete at the just-concluded Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

Although her decision in 2019 to represent China instead of the United States at the Winter Games has triggered different types of discussions in the two countries, Gu Ailing's sweeping influence goes beyond countries and borders, making her a real global icon for the new generation.

The 18-year-old girl has been outstanding in not only sports but also academics. That she is witty and eloquent, and possesses good interpersonal skills is an added bonus. To many teenagers around the globe, she is the embodiment of charm, intelligence, perseverance and courage-indeed a perfect role model.

While her Chinese lineage and her decision to represent China are matters of pride for the Chinese people, the US, too, has reason to feel proud, for it played a key role in nurturing Gu's talent and transforming her into one of the best contemporary skiers in the world. The US' reputation as a sports powerhouse is beyond dispute.

On the other hand, many Chinese table tennis players have gone abroad and represented other countries in regional and international competitions, and even won medals. As for Chinese coaches, they have trained the national teams of many countries and helped them win medals. Similarly, some foreign coaches have trained good Chinese players.

Such movements and exchanges have helped narrow the gap between Chinese players and their foreign counterparts, making table tennis more popular, more exciting and more attractive, while raising the Chinese players' standards and keeping China's "table tennis kingdom" title intact.

Winter sports are already popular in the US. Apart from many international stars, the US also has a big talent pool of women athletes, such as Erin Jackson, Lindsey Jacobellis, Mikaela Shiffrin and Chloe Kim, to name a few. In a country with so many champions and potential champions in the team, the impact of a female athlete winning an Olympic medal might be short-lived, failing to inspire a large number of youths to take up winter sports.

But as the development of winter sports in China is still in its infancy, the gold medals an athlete like Gu wins can inspire tens of thousands of youngsters to try and follow in her footsteps.

Since winning the bid in 2015 to host the 2022 Winter Games, the Chinese authorities have invested huge amounts of resources and efforts to promote winter sports. And given China's great market potential, an iconic figure such as Gu is needed to popularize winter sports in the country. Gu is a symbol of energy, courage, skill, beauty and success, and perhaps best suited to inspire the new generation to take up winter sports.

While China is nurturing a winter sports industry by encouraging more than 300 million people to participate in the newly emerging sports, the market can not only fuel economic growth but also provide opportunities for brands.

And Gu has already become the face of more than 20 brands in China, and in the US, raking in more than 200 million yuan ($31.4 million) from brand endorsements.

She has another dream: inspiring millions of young Chinese women to take up the extreme sport of skiing. In June 2019, announcing her decision to represent China at the Winter Games, Gu said: "Through skiing, I hope to unite people, promote common understanding, create communication, and forge friendships between nations. If I can help to inspire one young girl to break a boundary, my wishes will have come true."

Besides, she demonstrated the Olympic motto: "Faster, Higher, Stronger-Together" to win the gold medal in the women's freestyle skiing big air competition on Feb 8. Heading into her third run of the final, and needing a big trick to win the gold medal with French skier Tess Ledeux ahead of her, Gu, putting aside her mom's advice of playing safe, went full throttle with a double cork 1620(four and a half rotations).

The brave move earned her the gold and a round of thunderous applause from the spectators. "Even if I didn't land it, I felt it would send a message out to the world and hopefully encourage more girls to break their own boundaries," Gu said.

In fact, Gu's brave and friendly image has inspired not only Chinese women but also women around the world. I hope she continues her mission of inspiring women to strive for a better future. And I dedicate the theme song of the 2022 Winter Olympics "Together for a shared future" to Gu for her remarkable achievements: "The more the world has love, the more beautiful it is…. the more I love, the more I look forward to the future…. everybody, let's put our hands together. Together for a shared future!"

Keywords:   ambassador sports shared future