Zhu Yi, a 19-year-old US-born figure skater who gave up her US citizenship to compete for China at the Beijing Olympics, is facing intense backlash on Chinese social after she fell during her debut on Sunday Feb. 6.
As the only women’s singles entry for the team skate, Zhu competed in both women’s segments.
Her short program ended in disaster after she crashed into the barriers in her opening jump sequence and missed a jump later in the program.
Team China, who was in contention for a bronze medal, fell to 5th in the rankings. Its standing was solidified a day later during Zhu’s free skate program, when she fell two more times.
#ZhuYiFellOver quickly became a trending hashtag on Chinese social media platform Weibo before it was deactivated, but not before racking up over 200 million views, according to CNN.
A second hashtag #ZhuYiMessedUp remains on Weibo with over 80 millions views.
Many users questioned Zhu’s selection in the team event while others criticized her for not being able to speak fluent Mandarin.
“Please let her learn Chinese first, before she talks about patriotism,” one Weibo user wrote.
“I’m upset and a little embarrassed,” Zhu said to reporters after her skate. “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.”
Fans from around the world have since taken to social media to defend Zhu against the attacks.
“Zhu Yi doesn’t deserve the bullying she’s receiving for something as senseless as a fall. She is & will always be Chinese, regardless of where she was born,” one user commented.
Born to Chinese parents in the US as Beverly Zhu, Zhu changed her name to Zhu Yi and relinquished her US citizenship in 2018 in order to represent China as part of the country’s “Morning Road” initiative for recruiting athletes for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
She is one of several foreign-born athletes to decide to compete for China including fellow Chinese American freestyle skier Eileen Gu, who has become the unofficial face of the Games in the host country and a gold medal favorite in women’s ski slopestyle.