American-born figure skater Zhu Yi was attacked on Chinese social media after she fell — twice — during her Olympics debut for Team China on Sunday.
Zhu, 19, fell twice more during competition on Monday, and reportedly broke down in tears on the ice.
The hashtag “Zhu Yi Fell Over” was viewed over 230 million times in just a few hours on the Chinese social media platform Weibo Sunday before it was removed. Many users complained that an athlete born in America had taken the place of someone from China competing in the Beijing Winter Olympics.
“I’m upset and a little embarrassed,” Zhu said after her falls. “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.”
She added: “I just felt very sad that I couldn’t do better and help (China) during this team event but I’m very grateful to have them, and have them cheering for me.”
Zhu was the first to compete on the second day of the figure skating team event. She was greeted with loud cheers from a mostly Chinese audience as she skated onto the rink.
But Zhu quickly fell and crashed into a wall in her opening combination while skating to the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black.” She also missed another jump later in the program and finished with the lowest score of the event: 47.03. Kamila Valieva, who placed at the top for Russia, scored 90.18.
Because of Zhu’s performance, China slipped from from third place to fifth in the team competition, just high enough to progress to the next round.
On Monday, Zhu fell twice in the women’s free skate, the final event in the team competition.
Zhu is among some dozen foreign-born athletes who have been recruited by China in recent years in a bid to boost its medal count. But the attacks against her underscores the scrutiny and pressure many of the naturalized athletes face.
Chinese figure skater and two-time world bronze medalist Jin Boyang, 24, has asked that people be kind to Zhu.
“Zhu is a hard-working girl, and should not be blamed for her first performance on the Olympic stage,” he told Xinhua News.
“I fully understand her position. I was there too,′ he added. ’She’s under huge pressure as China’s last performer in the team event short program and the sole skater in women’s figure skating.”
Zhu was born in Los Angeles to a Chinese immigrant family. In 2018, she decided to compete for China so she gave up her American citizenship and changed her name from Beverly Zhu to Zhu Yi. Yet she reportedly faced criticism in China for not being able to speak fluent Chinese.
Zhu will compete in the individual event on Feb. 15.
Although most of the criticism about Zhu seemed to be from Chinese citizens, Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) also attacked the teen because he incorrectly believed she went to the Games to compete on the American team then suddenly jumped to Team China. After her falls, he tweeted:
News syndicated from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/zhu-yi-fell-china-attacks_n_6200aeeae4b0f8a1b846476b