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US-born Figure Skater Zhu Yi Under Attack on Social Media After Taking Fall in Beijing Olympics

A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights' related issues, politics, tech and society.
Published: February 7, 2022
BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 07: Multiple exposures were combined in camera to produce this image. Zhu Yi of Team China skates during the Women Single Skating Free Skating Team Event on day three of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at Capital Indoor Stadium on February 07, 2022 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Amin Mohammad Jamali via Getty Images)

Zhu Yi, a 19-year-old figure skater competing for China, took a hard fall over the weekend while skating for the women’s free program, knocking the hosting country from third place to fifth. She has been widely criticized by her compatriots.

Zhu, who was born in California but gave up her U.S. citizenship to become a People’s Republic of China (PRC) national and compete in the Chinese team, first fell while doing her first combination attempt before stumbling during a triple loop at the end of her routine. 

The mistakes placed Zhu in last place with a score of 47.03 and garnered heavy criticism across social media, with many users claiming other more seasoned athletes should have been selected to represent China. 

On Monday morning, she fell again in the women’s free-skating event, crashing into a wall, and was visibly upset as she covered her face and tried to hold back tears.

“I’m upset and a little embarrassed,” Zhu said after her first skate on Saturday, Reuters reported

Zhu Yi of Team China reacts during the Women Single Skating Free Skating Team Event on day three of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at Capital Indoor Stadium on February 07, 2022 in Beijing, China. (Image: Matthew Stockman via Getty Images)

‘Such a disgrace’ 

“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 told reporters, as she wiped away tears. 

Users on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, did not hold back, questioning why Zhu was selected over other athletes. 

“This is such a disgrace,” one comment that received over 11,000 likes said.

Chen Hongyi is far better than her. I don’t know why someone like this was allowed to represent China,” another user wrote.

Chen is a well known figure skater born in Beijing and a three-time Chinese national medalist. She also competed in five International Skating (ISU) championships over her professional career. 

By Sunday afternoon (Feb. 6), the hashtag #ZhuYiFellOver had received over 230 million views before being removed from the social media platform. A second tag, #ZhuYiMessedUp, remained on the site with just around 80 million views. 

“I suspect that she [Zhu] was participating in a wrestling competition, and she was live broadcasting wrestling falls,” another user chimed in.

Born in Los Angeles to a Chinese immigrant family, Zhu chose to compete for China in 2018 and renounced her American citizenship to do so. She also changed her name from Beverly Zhu to Zhu Yi but faced a lot of criticism for not being able to speak Chinese fluently. 

China, which has won two gold and two silver medals so far at the Olympic Games, finished in fifth place for figure skating’s team event, narrowly advancing into the semifinals. 

Zhu will now prepare to compete in the women’s singles competition, which is scheduled to air on Feb. 15.

Dubbed the ‘genocide games’

The Beijing Olympics have faced severe backlash due to the world’s condemnation of Communist China’s human rights abuses. Particularly, the abuse experienced by Uyghur Muslims, an ethnic minority from Xinjiang, has been the subject of much scrutiny after accounts of forced sterilizations, genocide and other atrocities were reported.

Nearly 250 non-government organizations have issued a joint statement, calling on democratic nations to diplomatically boycott Beijing’s Olympic Games. Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, insisted that the Winter Olympics cannot be a “force for good” as claimed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) given the fact that the Chinese government is committing “grave crimes” that violate international law.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has a long track record of targeting religious faiths and minorities for violent assimilation to its atheist ideology. In addition to Uyghurs, the Party has also targeted Tibetan Buddhists, Chinese Christians and adherents of the Falun Gong spiritual practice, many of whom have suffered persecution for decades.

The U.S., U.K., and Canada have announced that they will be holding a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics over these allegations. The boycotts only prevented diplomats, and not athletes, from partaking in the Games.