US-born figure skater Zhu Yi attacked after failing to make Olympic debut for China
Instead, the 19-year-old is facing a firestorm on Chinese social media after she fell limply on the ice and finished last in the women’s short program team event on Sunday. Japan.
On Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, the hashtag “Zhu Yi has fallen” gained 200 million views in just a few hours. Many questioned why Zhu, an American-born figure skater, was chosen to represent China at the price of an athlete born in the country.
“This is a disgrace,” said one comment with 11,000 upvotes.
By Sunday night, the hashtag appeared to have been moderated. Not sure why.
Zhu was the first to compete on day two of the figure skating team event, gliding onto the ice rink to a standing ovation from the mostly Chinese crowd at the Northern Capital Indoor Stadium. Terrible.
But she fell and hit a wall after an unsuccessful jump in the opening combo, and missed another jump later in the show, ending with the event’s lowest score.
China has thus fallen from third to fifth in the standings – just enough to progress to the next round.
“I’m sad and a little embarrassed,” Zhu said after the race, wiping away tears.
“I guess I feel a lot of pressure because I know people in China are quite surprised by the selection of female singles and I just really wanted to show them what I can do. but unfortunately I didn’t.”
Pressure to perform
Chinese athletes face enormous pressure to win results at the Olympics, with medal numbers long seen by the Chinese government as a sign of national strength. In the past, many people have faced backlash for poor performances.
Zhu is among at least a dozen foreign-born athletes recruited by China in recent years in an effort to bolster its medal count at the Winter Olympics. But the attack against her also highlights the pressure these naturalized athletes face when competing under the Chinese flag.
Born in Los Angeles to a family of Chinese immigrants, Zhu decided to take the entrance exam to China in 2018 and renounced his American citizenship. She also changed her name from Beverly Zhu to Zhu Yi.
But she has faced criticism in China for not being able to speak fluent Chinese.
“Please let her learn Chinese first, before she talks about patriotism,” one Weibo user said Sunday.
Others have targeted her supposedly privileged background and familial ties. Zhu’s father, Zhu Songchun, is an award-winning artificial intelligence scientist. He joined Peking University from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2020.
The attack on Zhu stands in stark contrast to the huge popularity of California-born Eileen Gu, a freestyle skiing prodigy also competing for China.
The 18-year-old has captivated the Chinese public with her fluent Mandarin and familiarity with Chinese culture, which she grew up during summer vacations in Beijing. She became the unofficial face of China at the Winter Olympics, appearing in state media to promote winter sports, as well as advertising for Chinese brands.
Gu is scheduled to make his Olympic debut in the women’s freeski big air event on Monday morning. On Weibo, where Gu has 1.9 million followers, the hashtag “Eileen Gu’s first performance” was trending Sunday night with more than 300 million views.