Eileen Gu wins best breakthrough athlete ESPY, Weibo erupts over Chinese speech

Eileen Gu has taken home another title, this time being named the best breakthrough athlete at the 2022 ESPYs, and added to her status on both sides of the world with an acceptance speech that ended in Chinese.

The Winter Olympian was honoured at a ceremony in Los Angeles on Wednesday night (US time) alongside some of the biggest names in sport, and took her grandmother with her to share the occasion.

In her speech after being handed the award, Gu thanked “all the women” who had gone before her, and dedicated it those who would follow. After thanking her mum and her gran, she then ended by speaking in Chinese, saying: “In the end I want to thank all the people who support me – let’s add oil together.”

At a glittering event hosted by Steph Curry, the Golden State Warriors point guard, Gu was lauded for her performance representing China at the Beijing Games earlier this year.

The 18-year-old won three medals at the Olympics, with golds in the freeski big air and freeski half-pipe, and silver in slopestyle.

Weibo users were delighted by her use of Chinese at a ceremony that was broadcast on ABC and ESPN, with many sending their congratulations, and posting pictures of her with her grandmother.

Not everyone was impressed, and some Twitter users questioned why ESPN had honoured an athlete who “wanted to compete for China rather than the United States”.

See also  COP26 opens ‘era of accountability’, says US climate envoy John Kerry

Another commentator said: “I’m being truly honest when I say I have no clue who this is.” While several others wanted to know why Ja Morant, who plays in the NBA for the Memphis Grizzlies, had not won.

There were plenty of people backing Gu too, with many pointing out she was the “first and only action-sports athlete to win three medals at the same Olympic Games”.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.