Forbes released a list of the highest-paid female athletes in 2022. While you might be forgiven for thinking Alpine legends Lindsey Vonn or Mikaela Shiffrin could have made the list, it was instead Freestyle talent Eileen Gu, who came in at 3rd place with an estimated $ 20.1 million, behind Naomi Osaka in 1st place and Serena Williams in 2nd with $51.1 million and $41.3 million respectively.
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19-year-old Gu was born and raised in San Francisco to an American dad and a Chinese mom and caused a lot of stir in the US when she changed her FIS registration to China in June 2019 after having competed for the USA in the 2018/19 season. After winning Gold in the Youth Olympics in Lausanne, Eileen went on to win two Gold medals at the Olympics in Big Air and Half Pipe and one Silver medal in Slopestyle in Beijing.
While her official prize money is estimated to be only around $100,000, her sponsoring and marketing income seems to have tipped the balance in her favor. Other ski athletes, like Mikaela Shiffrin, might earn more prize money, but Eileen Gu has taken her fame globally and across non-sporting brands. Eileen Gu is a model with the top model agency in the world, IMG Models. Aside from appearing on the catwalk of several fashion shows, this helped her secure marketing campaigns with Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Fendi, Tiffany & Co., and other luxury brands. She is a brand ambassador for several luxury brands but, more importantly, was able to secure lucrative deals with Chinese brands, like Mengniu, Anta, Midea or the Bank of China.
Bridging the gap between Western and Asian cultures seems to have been the key to her success in securing international marketing deals. She managed to be the face of global marketing campaigns, while other stars’ recognition is often limited to their home country and a few surrounding nations. Time Magazine voted her as one of the top 100 most influential people of 2022 and Forbes as one of the “30 under 30” in the category ‘Asia – Entertainment and Sports’.
When she is not skiing or modeling, Eileen is busy studying. She managed to secure a place at the prestigious Stanford University after achieving an SAT score of 1,580 out of a possible 1,600. She truly seems to be the girl who has it all. It would be great to see her compete on the slope again. She is such an incredible Freestyle talent and was the first woman to land a forward double cork 1440. We hope after a break to focus on university, she will put on her skis again and wow us with her grace and fearlessness.