On December 26, Xinhua News Agency, a state media outlet in China, released its top ten world athletes of 2022. Eileen Gu, a US-born Chinese freestyle skier, beat Argentine professional footballer Lionel Messi, to win the top spot, which caused some doubt among Chinese netizens.
In the introduction, Xinhua said that Gu claimed gold medals in the women’s big air and halfpipe and a silver in slopestyle at the Beijing Winter Olympics, becoming the first freestyle skier to win three medals in three different events at a single Winter Olympics. Later in the year, Messi helped Argentina win the World Cup in Qatar after a 36-year drought. With seven goals and three assists, Messi won the tournament’s Golden Ball. He also became one of the players with the most appearances at the World Cup with 26 in total.
The list also includes Irene Schouten from Netherlands for speed skating, Eliud Kipchoge from Kenya for athletics, Armand Duplantis from Sweden for athletics, Karim Benzema from France for football, Rafael Nadal from Spain for tennis, Katie Ledecky from the United States for swimming, Iga Swiatek from Poland for tennis, and Max Verstappen from Netherlands for Formula One.
After this list was released, responses from netizens were mixed. Some people thought that Gu was worth it while others questioned it. “Ask Gu herself, let her write the list by herself, and see if she dares to row ahead of Messi”, “Hilarious”, “There is a reason for the poor football environment in China”.
In the list of top 10 Chinese athletes for 2022 released by Xinhua, Gu still beat speed skater Gao Tingyu, snowboarder Su Yiming and freestyle skier Xu Mengtao to rank first. Gu later mentioned the list on social media outlet Weibo.
On Weibo, Gu reviewed some of the top achievements of the past year, including the top ten best moments of the Olympics from NBC, the 21 best sports moments from The New York Times, and attaining full marks in all of her courses in the first semester at Stanford University.
The last one attracted some questions from netizens. One of them said, “Gu’s grades are not as good as the full marks of the comprehensive science test in China’s college entrance exam. Her course selection and mid-term homework were carefully planned and reviewed by her mother and even the behind-the-scenes team. She only scored just more than 90 points out of 100.”
Gu responded, “What kind of team can keep up with my work schedule and cooperate with my training rhythm, yet still hit full marks at Stanford at the same time? Please recommend it as soon as possible! My mother never helped me with my studies. Also… I need to get 95 points to get an A and only 5% of students will get an A. My grades are 100% of my own efforts.”
Despite many doubts in China, Gu still has 28 endorsements. In the list of the top 10 female athletes with the highest income in the world in 2022 published by Forbes in December, Gu earned a total of $20.1 million in 2022, ranking third.