Eileen Gu skirts around issue of Peng Shuai’s safety and says tennis star is ‘happy and healthy’

Peng watched Gu win gold the day after interview where she walked back sex assault allegations

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Tuesday 08 February 2022 22:44 GMT
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Gu on Peng Shuai watching her seal Olympic gold in Big Air

Olympian Eileen Gu skirted around the issue of Peng Shuai’s safety as she insisted the Chinese tennis star is “happy and healthy.”

Shuai and IOC president Thomas Bach were on hand to see Gu dramatically secure a gold medal in the women’s big air freestyle skiing competition for the host nation.

Peng made a rare public appearance in Beijing the day after walking back her allegations of sexual assault against a powerful Chinese Communist Party official and announcing her retirement from tennis.

The athlete had given an interview to French sports magazine L’Equipe in front of a Chinese Olympic Committee official after concerns about her safety have been raised for months.

“I never said anyone sexually assaulted me,” she told the magazine and added, “My private life should not be brought up in sports and politics.”

Following her medal-winning performance, Gu, 18, dodged the issue but said she was “really happy” Peng had attended “niche sports like free skiing.”

“I’m really grateful that she’s, yeah, happy and healthy and out here doing her thing again,” Gu said before a room full of Chinese volunteers and media, who reportedly grew quiet when the tennis player was mentioned.

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai looks on during the Women's Freestyle Skiing Freeski Big Air Final on Day 4 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at Big Air Shougang on February 08, 2022 in Beijing, China.
Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai looks on during the Women's Freestyle Skiing Freeski Big Air Final on Day 4 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at Big Air Shougang on February 08, 2022 in Beijing, China. (Getty Images)

Gu also slammed her critics on social media and pointed out what she had just achieved.

“If people don’t like me then that’s their loss... They are never going to win the Olympics,” she said.

The San Francisco native, who has a Chinese mother and American father, learned to ski on the slopes of Tahoe and announced her competitive allegiance to China in 2019, at the age of just 15.

Gu obtained a Chinese passport after her decision, although it is unknown of she renounced her American passport in doing so.

The International Olympic Committee requires athletes to hold passports for the countries they compete for, and China does not recognize dual nationality.

But as a 15 year-old, US law means that she would not have been able to relinquish her American citizenship, which the State Department say can only be done after 16.

One of her main sponsors Red Bull wrote on their website that Gu had given up her US citizenship, before taking that passage down.

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