BEIJING, CHINA – 19-year-old figure skater Beverly Zhu – born and raised in Los Angeles, California to Chinese immigrant parents – made the decision in 2018 to relinquish her U.S. citizenship and changed her name to Zhu Yi so she could instead compete for China.
At the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games this Sunday, Zhu botched twice during her routine in the women’s singles short program, costing her team dearly, sparking a massive wave of criticism on social media in her newly-adopted country as Chinese censors struggled to hush discourse regarding the embarrassing incident as best as they could.
Zhu, who appeared nervous during her routine, fell early on while attempting a jump, slamming into a wall. Later in the routine, she nearly fell a second time while landing awkwardly from a second jump attempt.
While awaiting her score, Zhu looked to be holding back tears; she would end up placing last in the competition, causing China to fall from third overall in the free program to fifth.
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“I’m upset and a little embarrassed,” she told reporters on Sunday. “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.”
However, Zhu’s blunders on the world stage didn’t end there, unfortunately. The naturalized Chinese skater would go on to fall twice in Monday’s free skate during team competition; she initially landed her first two jumps, but fell on her third – a triple-flip – and fell again on her fourth attempt.
Zhu was seen openly sobbing over her performance on the ice afterwards.
“I guess because I missed the first jump I was just kind of frazzled and felt a lot of pressure on landing that last jump, and unfortunately I popped it,” said Zhu afterwards.
Overall, China finished in fifth place, with Russia scoring gold, the United States silver, and Japan bronze.
On China’s Weibo social media platform – the country’s equivalent of Twitter – Zhu was harshly criticized, with the hashtag #ZhuYiFellOver trending with over 230 million views before the Chinese Communist Party – known for its extreme censorship of all media content within its borders – deactivated it in an attempt to minimize the exposure of the Olympic gaffe to its citizens.
Chinese Weibo users took Zhu to task not just for costing China a medal in the Beijing Games, but also being chosen to skate for the team over her teammates who had actually been born in the country as well as for not being fluent in the Chinese language.
“Chen Hongyi is far better than her. I don’t know why someone like this was allowed to represent China,” one user said.
“This is such a disgrace,” said a comment with 11,000 upvotes.
“Please let her learn Chinese first, before she talks about patriotism,” another user said.