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July 25, 2022

ESPYS’ ‘Best Breakthrough Athlete’ a Shame

An athlete who opted to ski for China and not her homeland of America wins an arbitrary award.

Eileen Gu, an 18-year-old American-born skier who chose to compete for China in the 2022 Winter Olympics, just won the Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award (ESPY) in the Best Breakthrough Athlete category.

Considering the geopolitical turbulent undertones leading up to the Beijing Olympics, the controversial athlete’s decision to compete for China instead of the United States felt like a slap in the face. There are some key factors to consider, though. She is young and probably only has the vaguest sense of what is going on in the world at large. Her father, who is American, was out of the picture in her growing-up years. She was raised by her Chinese mother and grandmother. She may, understandably, feel more loyalty toward her mother’s antecedents as a result.

However, the waters get muddier from there, as there’s some controversy about whether Gu maintains her U.S. citizenship or had to renounce it to compete for China. The ESPYS are not exclusively awarded to American athletes, but still, to give her the Best Breakthrough Athlete award does rub salt in the wound.

The ESPYS — originally an ESPN award show — is now put on by ABC. In 2014, ABC garnered a reputation for selling its journalistic integrity to have access to the Chinese market. These days, ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Company. It’s no secret that Disney has deep ties to China. Therefore, it seems a little suspicious that Gu was the ultimate winner in this category because of those heavy ties.

Then there’s the history of the other athletes who have won this particular award. Colin Kaepernick, the infamous America hater and defunct former quarterback for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, won the award in 2013. Three years later, he would start his shameful protests that sparked an anti-America movement in professional sports. It’s an interesting coincidence, to say the least.

Gu is an outstanding athlete, as her two gold medals at the Beijing Olympics can attest. But the circumstances seem a little fishy. One cannot help but wish that the ESPY award had gone to an athlete who didn’t blatantly choose to compete for America’s number one geopolitical adversary.

On the topic of awards going to people they shouldn’t, Will Thomas — a.k.a. “Lia” Thomas — has been nominated for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award. Thomas is the “transgender” swimmer for the University of Pennsylvania who dominated the biological female swimmers in multiple competitions including the NCAA championships. The fact that he was nominated at all seems like a very unfunny punchline in a Dave Chappelle sketch. If Thomas wins, it will be a further humiliation and erasure of women athletes.

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