The huge enthusiasm for China’s Olympic champion Eileen Gu temporarily overloaded the Internet servers of China’s largest short message service Sina Weibo.
The topic “Gold for Gu Ailing”, as the athlete is called in Chinese, reached 1.86 billion clicks after her victory. “Gu is China’s new icon,” wrote the party-affiliated newspaper Global Times about the California-born ski freestyler.
The first gold medal win for a Chinese athlete in skiing is “a historic achievement”. “It’s been a long time since China has had a superstar in sports,” the paper said enthusiastically. There is a “mania with self-confidence and passion” among the people around the daughter of a Chinese and an American, who has been competing for China since 2019 and after her triumph again left open whether she had given up American citizenship. The newspaper also defended the teenager against criticism from Internet users in the United States that she was a “traitor”.
On state television on a continuous loop
Around 30 of the top 50 trends in social media revolved around Gu Ailing, each with several hundred million clicks. The Weibo service was suspended “for a short time” amid the massive increase in Internet traffic, Hong Kong television station Phoenix reported. The fact that Gu is not competing for the USA but for China was a topic that moved 180 million users. She doesn’t try to please everyone, the athlete said.
Her Olympic victory, which at least briefly lifted China to first place in the medal table, ran on state television on a continuous loop. In between, she was also shown an advertisement for a Chinese shopping platform. Gu advertises around 30 Chinese and foreign brands and is said to have earned more than 100 million yuan (around 13 million euros) last year, according to the Global Times. After her gold she had emphasized that she could choose the brands very carefully.
“Everyone loves Gu” or “Every time I see her, she smiles, confident and optimistic, which really inspires us,” comments are also quoted in state media. “She says she loves sleep, dislikes tidying her room, and that attitude toward imperfection resonates with us,” one fan wrote.