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U.S.-Born Chinese Figure Skater Flops in Beijing Olympics

AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko

An American-born Olympic figure skater who gave up her U.S. citizenship and moved to China has come under fire after falling in two events in the Beijing Winter Olympics.


Nineteen-year-old Zhu Yi was born Beverly Zhu in Los Angeles, California to Chinese immigrants. In 2018, Yi won the novice title in her Nationals debut at the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. That same year, Yi renounced her American citizenship to compete for China, which does not allow dual citizenship. She now lives and trains in Beijing, China.

NBC Los Angeles reported that Yi “fell several times and failed to land a jump” during her Olympic debut over the weekend. On Sunday, she “fell and crashed into a wall” and “missed a jump in her routine and finished with the lowest score of the event, knocking China down from third to fifth place.”

The social media hashtag “Zhu Yi has fallen” reportedly circulated China’s social media platform, Weibo, and amassed 200 million views before it was censored, according to USA Today.

On Monday, Yi fell two more times and left the rink in tears at the end of her routine. Her poor performance sparked a wave of online backlash from Weibo users.

“The backlash she faced on Chinese social media was immediate,” Insider reported. “Her name trended on China's Twitter-like platform Weibo, with one topic hashtag ‘Zhu Yi's Winter Olympics debut is not perfect’ gaining more than 33 million views within a few hours on Monday.” Some users reportedly speculated if China had been “deceived” by the United States and questioned if Yi was an undercover spy.


“Many users also complained that the American-born skater had been given a spot on Team China over someone who is native-born to compete in the Beijing Winter Olympics. Zhu has also faced criticism for not being able to speak fluent Chinese,” NBC Los Angeles noted.

Following her Monday performance, Yi reportedly told the media “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.” She added that she was “upset and a little embarrassed.”

Yi is not the only American-born athlete to compete for China in the Olympics. Olympic freeskier Eileen Gu, who was born in California, decided to compete for China. Michigan-born Jeremy Smith and Chicago native Jake Chelios are competing on China’s hockey team for the Olympic games.


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