Figure skater Zhu Yi who gave up her US citizenship to compete for China blasted on Chinese social media for poor performance at the Beijing Winter Olympics

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Figure Skater at the Olympics

Zhu Yi, a figure skater, born in Los Angeles, California, gave up her US citizenship in 2018 to represent China in the 2022 Winter Olympics. The whole fiasco started with her catastrophic free skate performance, in which the 19-year-old fell twice, causing her to finish fifth. In Zhu’s latest Olympic competition, the 2022 ladies short program, Zhu failed to complete the opening triple-flip triple-toe loop jump sequence and tripped, colliding with the wall. Both times she left the rink in tears. 

Because of her performance, Zhu was slandered on social media, criticized for her “embarrassing” execution. One user called her ” a disgrace ” on a Chinese social media platform, Weibo, one user called her a disgrace. ”I guess I felt a lot of pressure because I know everybody in China was pretty surprised with the selection for ladies’ singles,” Zhu Yi explained, “ I just really wanted to show them what I was able to do, but unfortunately, I didn’t.” 

Even before her first glides on the Beijing Indoor Stadium ice rink, Zhu Yi faced heavy backlash online. Users attacked her for her American background,  as well as her lack of knowledge of Chinese culture. Others insist that Zhu was only chosen for the Olympic team because of her family ties. Her father, Zhu Songchun, was a leading artificial intelligence scientist. Many think that the qualifying competition was rigged by her powerful dad. Users also say that another Chinese-born figure skater was more worthy of the spot.

Many compare the Chinese’s rash treatment of Zhu Yi to Eileen Gu, another “American-born Chinese” who skied for China. In contrast to Zhu, Eileen is fluent in Mandarin, and was heavily praised after ranking first in the Ladies Freeski Halfpipe Competition. 

After being tirelessly cyberbullied, Zhu was defended by Hu Xinjin, a retired editor of the Global Times. “Whenever people have an opinion, they have to hurl their emotions at a young athlete. When she makes a mistake, social media will openly kick her when she’s down or bully her online. That’s unacceptable no matter what,” he comments on Weibo. 

Jin Boyang, Zhu Yi’s teammate, also came to her defense, telling the Xinhua News Agency that, “Zhu Yi has been very hard-working. She faced immense pressure: it was her first time to take part in the Olympics, and it was held in Beijing, at her home country”.

On February 15, 2022, Zhu received a chance to redeem herself in the Women’s Singles Skating. Finally, with a smile on her face, she performed the same routine she had scrambled last week. Although she fumbled the landing on her opening combination, it was a definite start from her fall last week. All in all, Zhu Yi earned a score of 53.44, a great improvement, though not an ideal score. 

“I guess it was a little bit of a redemption. I think I skated much better than the team event. I feel more at ease and try to enjoy the game, that’s why I smiled,” Zhu revealed.

“I also reminded myself that the fact that I’m here right now, it’s already once in a lifetime experience,” she added, “I need to experience it as much as I can.”

With her improved performance, users on Weibo reacted to her singles event with much more empathy, although others were not as generous. Although she is unlikely to qualify for the free skate event, things are looking up for Zhu Li.