Zhu Yi, a California naturalized citizen, was earnest to impress the Chinese public as she made her Olympic debut for Team China. Rather the 19-year-old has sparked outrage on Chinese social media after falling flat on the ice and completing last in the women's short program team event on Sunday. The hashtag "Zhu Yi has fallen" received 200 million viewers in a matter of hours on Weibo, China's Twitter-like platform. Many people wondered why Zhu, an American-born skater, was chosen to represent China over a Chinese-born athlete.
"This is such a disgrace," said a comment with 11,000 upvotes. The hashtag had appeared to be censored by Sunday evening with reasons still unknown. Zhu was the first competitor on the second day of the figure skating team competition, gliding onto the ice to roaring applause mostly from the Chinese audience at Beijing's Capital Indoor Stadium. However, after a failed jump in the opening combination, she tumbled and ended up crashing into the wall, and subsequently in the performance, she failed another jump, ending with the lowest score for the tournament. As a result, China dropped from third to fifth position in the standings, just about enough to advance to the next round of competition. "I'm upset and a little embarrassed," Zhu said after the race, wiping her tears. "I guess I felt a lot of pressure because I know everybody in China was pretty surprised with the selection for ladies' singles and I just really wanted to show them what I was able to do but unfortunately I didn't." Chinese athletes are under enormous scrutiny to perform well at the Olympics, with medal counts long regarded as a symbol of national capacity by the Chinese government. Many athletes have experienced criticism in the past for their underperformance. Zhu is one of at least a dozen foreign-born athletes who have been trained by China in recent years with the aim to increase its triumphs at the Winter Olympics. However, this berating act on her outlines the gravity these naturalized olympians encounter when competing under the Chinese flag.
Zhu, who was born in Los Angeles to Chinese immigrants, chose to contend for China in 2018 and renounced her American citizenship. Beverly Zhu was then renamed Zhu Yi. Nevertheless, she has been chastised in China for her inability to speak Chinese fluently. "Please let her learn Chinese first, before she talks about patriotism," a Weibo user said on Sunday. Several have criticized her apparent privileged upbringing and familial relations. Zhu Songchun, Zhu's father, is a renowned artificial intelligence researcher and scientist. In 2020, he transferred to Peking University from the University of California, Los Angeles. The strike on Zhu contrasts sharply with the enormous fame of Eileen Gu, a freestyle skiing prodigy from California who is contending for China as well. The 18-year-old has wowed the Chinese community with her fluent Mandarin and knowledge of Chinese culture, owing to her summer vacations spent in Beijing growing up. She has emerged as China's unofficial face of the Winter Olympics, appearing prominently in state press coverage promoting winter sports as well as commercial for Chinese brand products. Gu is set to make her Olympic debut on Monday morning in the women's freeski big air qualification. The hashtag "Eileen Gu's first show" is trending on Weibo, where Gu has 1.9 million followers, and has received over 300 million views as of Sunday night.