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US-born figure skater Zhu Yi under attack after the fall on his Olympic debut for China

China’s Zhu Yi falls under the woman’s figure skating team on Sunday. (Ni Minzhe / ChinaSports / VCG / Getty Images)

China’s California figure skater Zhu Yi is facing a firestorm of attacks on Chinese social media after she fell short on her Olympic debut on Sunday.

The hashtag “Zhu Yi has fallen” is a popular topic on Weibo, which has garnered about 200 million views in a matter of hours, with some users asking why an American-born skater was chosen to represent China in front of an athlete born in the country.

“This is such a disgrace,” said a commenter with 11,000 “likes.”

Zhu, 19, was the first to compete on the second day of the figure skating team event, sliding onto the skating rink to loud cheers from the predominantly Chinese audience at Beijing’s capital indoors.

But she fell flat on the ice after a failed jump in the opening combination and missed another jump later in the program, finishing with the lowest score in the event.

Consequently, China dropped from third place to fifth in the standings – just enough to advance to the next round of competition.

Unlike the online vitriol, the audience at Zhu Stadium clapped as she bent to the stands.

Pressure to perform: Chinese athletes face enormous pressure to achieve results at the Olympics, with medal counters long hailed by the Chinese government as a sign of national strength. In the past, many have faced a backlash for poor performance.

Zhu is among at least a dozen foreign-born athletes recruited by China in recent years in an effort to bolster his medal count at the Winter Olympics. But the attack on her also highlights the pressure that these naturalized athletes are under to compete under the Chinese flag.

She was born in Los Angeles in 2002 and decided to compete for China in 2018 and gave up her US citizenship. She also changed her name from Beverly Zu to Zhu Yi.

But she has faced criticism in China for not being able to speak fluent Chinese.

“Please let her learn Chinese first before she talks about patriotism,” a Weibo user said Sunday.

The attack on Zhu stands in stark contrast to the enormous popularity of California-born Eileen Gus, a freestyle child prodigy who also competes for China.

The 18-year-old has charmed the Chinese public with her fluent mandarin and familiarity with Chinese culture, having grown up spending summer vacations in Beijing. She has become China’s unofficial face during the Winter Olympics, and she is heavily involved in state media coverage to promote winter sports, as well as advertising for Chinese brands.

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