She’s 18 years of age, an Olympic gold medallist, an international model, a future Stanford student and set to become one of the richest athletes on the entire planet.
Eileen Gu, who was born and raised in San Francisco but is competing for China in the Beijing Winter Olympics, made history by becoming the youngest-ever athlete to win the gold in the freestyle skiing discipline.
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To claim the gold medal, Gu had to score 93.75 on her final run, which would mean she’d need to pull out a trick that she’d never pulled off before.
The teenager decided to whip out a 1620 — four-and-a-half rotations in the air — to tally a score of 94.50 and secure first place ahead of France’s Tess Ledeux.
It was a crowning moment for the host nation hero, as she deservedly lapped up all the praise and described it as “the best day of my life.”
It almost seems unfathomable that someone so young can be doing so much.
But for Gu, a girl who trains hard on the slopes during the week before swapping it for modelling shoots on the weekends, nothing is impossible.
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FROM SAN FRANCISCO TO THE SLOPES OF BEIJING
Gu was born in San Francisco in 2003 to an American father and a Chinese mother.
Little is known about Gu’s father, who she is reluctant to comment publicly on.
But her mother, Gu Yan, has been a bedrock for the teenager throughout her life.
She enrolled a three-year-old Gu in skiing lessons at Northstar California Resort, before joining a ski team around the age of seven, such was her rapid development.
It was either a path of racing or freeskiing, and as we know now, it was the latter pursuit that Gu’s mother selected for her daughter.
However, a bigger fork in the road was still to come.
There was a moment in time when Gu, who was also a budding cross-country runner and dreamt of running for Stanford in collegiate competition, had a cross-country event coinciding with an international ski event.
She chose the skiing event and as they say, the rest is history.
From there, Gu stood out for her relentless work ethic when it came to practice.
According to Dave Euler, the U.S head coach of competitive freeskiing, it was clear that Gu had something different about her.
“It was not only her talent, but her ambition and drive to improve herself,” Euler told The New York Times.
“It was, like, ‘Ok, Eileen’s got something.’”
As Gu continued her progress in America, conversation surrounding the ace began to centre around her potential as an Olympic star.
That conversation changed tact entirely when Gu announced she would compete under the Chinese flag instead of the American in 2019.
Gu has spent parts of her summer breaks in Beijing since she was two, and was in the city in 2015 when it was confirmed it would host the 2022 Winter Olympics.
“I hope that through my pursuit of the extreme sport, I could enhance interaction, understanding and friendship between the Chinese and American people,” Gu wrote on her Weibo account.
From 2021 onwards, Gu has been a star on the freestyle skiing circuit.
In her rookie appearance at the X Games in Aspen, Gu won two gold medals and a bronze.
Not only that, but Gu never finished worse than second place in any slopestyle event in the freestyle season preceding the Olympics.
The 18-year-old’s momentum carried into the Olympics, as she stunned the world to win the gold medal in the women’s freestyle big air event and there’s still more to come.
As she potentially prepares for a gold rush of medals, she’s undoubtedly set for a gold rush of money coming in her pocket.
THE ‘SNOW PRINCESS’ WHO RAKED IN OVER $22M
Away from the various mountains and half-pipes of the world, Gu is a growing star in the fashion industry.
As an IMG model, she has graced the pages of Vogue, ELLE, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s BAZAAR and InStyle.
Gu is also a regular fixture on the front row of several fashion weeks across the globe, and has modelled for brands like Fendi and Chanel.
Not only has she starred in big fashion magazines and modelling shoots, she has inked plenty of deals with big luxury names.
Gu is a global ambassador for Tiffany and Co., has a partnership with Louis Vuitton and recently became a brand ambassador for Swiss watchmaking company IWC Shaffhausen.
Her American sponsors are also household names, and include Red Bull, Cadillac, Beats by Dre and Victoria’s Secret.
But is in China where Gu is raking in the money from endorsement deals.
She is colloquially known as the “Snow Princess” in China, and has over 20 endorsement deals with Chinese companies.
The likes of China Mobile, Luckin’ Coffee (the Starbucks of China), and the Bank of China are just three names of companies who sponsor the skiing star, and according to campaignasia.com, tying Gu down to an endorsement deal will set companies back a whopping $AUD3.5m.
According to Shanghai-based outlet Yicai Global, Gu’s wallet isn’t set to stop exploding there.
It estimates that her commercial earnings last year tipped the scales at a cool $22m.
To think that this was before her Olympic gold medal showing is frightening, as it means the golden girl will be swimming in cash once the Games concludes.
All of this for someone who was listed in Forbes China’s esteemed 30 Under 30 list when she was only 17 years of age.
So, what makes someone like Gu so marketable?
Well, according to the Richard Lord of the South China Morning Post, it’s part of a shift in mentality from big name brands and the fact she is a “uniquely profitable proposition”.
“Her popularity is part of a broader trend from luxury brands to begin to move away from traditional showbiz celebrities, and towards people achieving success in other areas, especially sports,” Lord said.
“Moreover, Gu represents a uniquely profitable proposition for brands: not only does her sporting prowess make her likely to become the breakout star of the 2022 Winter Olympics, but she has genuine cut-through in both China and the West, as someone who authentically straddles both cultures.”
With two more events for Gu to claim gold in, who knows how many further endorsements could be headed her way when the curtains are drawn on the Winter Olympics.
But for someone who is just 18 years of age and has accomplished so much already, to say that the sky is the limit would be an eternal understatement.