US-born figure skater Zhu Yi attacked after failing to make Olympic debut for China

China's Zhu Yi fell during the women's figure skating team event on Sunday.
China’s Zhu Yi fell during the women’s figure skating team event on Sunday. (Ni Minzhe / ChinaSports / VCG / Getty Images)

China’s California-born figure skater Zhu Yi is facing a storm of attacks on Chinese social media after she appeared in her Olympic debut on Sunday.

The hashtag “Zhu Yi has fallen” is a trending topic on Weibo, reaching around 200 million views in just a few hours, with some users asking why an American-born figure skater was able to win. choose to represent China in front of a domestic born athlete .

“This is a disgrace,” said one comment with 11,000 “likes.”

Zhu, 19, was the first to compete on day two of the figure skating team event, gliding onto the ice rink in front of loud cheers from the mostly Chinese crowd at the Indoor Stadium Beijing capital.

But she fell limply on the ice 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.

In contrast to the online vitriols, the audience in the stadium applauded Zhu as she bowed in front of the stands.

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 2002 in Los Angeles, she decided to play for China in 2018 and renounced her US citizenship. She also changed her name from Beverly Zu to Zhu Yi.

But she has faced criticism in China for not being able to speak fluent Chinese.

“Let her learn Chinese first, before she talks about patriotism,” one Weibo user said on Sunday.

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.

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