Eileen Gu Opens Up About Coping With Pressure

Eileen Gu close up
Wikimedia | Leonprimer

Fatima Araos

Eileen Gu was a gold medal favorite at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing in February, and while she took the top spot on the podium in two of her events, she missed out on a third and had to settle for silver.

The 18-year-old freestyle skier looked very strong going into the Games and was poised to become the event's biggest star, but it turned out physical strength alone wasn’t enough to get her all the golds she was gunning for.

'Tired Mentally'

Insider reported that Gu, who decided to represent China in the Olympics after previously competing for the U.S.A., wasn’t feeling 100 percent mentally during her slopestyle competition, resulting in a silver finish behind Switzerland's Mathilde Gremaud.

“I think I was feeling a little bit tired mentally after big air,” she said. “In my first and second run, I wasn't fully in it. I wasn't in the zone. I wasn't feeling that rush, that excitement. I felt almost too calm, which sometimes doesn't work out the best.”

Need For Pressure

Gu, who was born in California to a Chinese mother and an American father, continued, “I'm one of those people that kind of needs to have the pressure on, and I was happy that I was able to put it down.”

This need for pressure was, in fact, the subject of an essay she wrote for The New York Times. In her piece, she described pressure as “an energy source that can be wielded in many ways” and one of three sensations that make up fear (the other two being excitement and uncertainty).

'Rise To The Occasion'

“Expectations of family and friends, a competitive streak, or even sponsorship opportunities can provide the scaffolding for a high-pressure environment,” Gu wrote. “Pressure can be a positive force for competitors who leverage it to rise to the occasion, but it can also single-handedly dictate competitive failure.”

She needed pressure to “rise to the occasion” during her slopestyle event in the Olympics, but she wasn’t feeling it. No one can deny, though, that two golds out of three weren’t bad at all, and her overall performance still made her the biggest star of the 2022 Winter Olympics.

'Bolstering My Self-Esteem'

With all the pressures of her sport, not to mention the controversy surrounding her switch to China, it’s admirable that Gu chooses to steer her fear in a positive direction.

“As I enter my early adulthood, I’m proud of the work I’ve done to cope with pressure by bolstering my self-esteem and minimizing my need for external validation,” she added.