Eileen Gu at the TIME 100 Gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City, on June 8, 2022.
Landon Nordeman for TIME

Eileen Gu believes sports can help bring together people and countries across the world. And she wants to be a part of that work.

“I have always said that sports are this unique avenue to global communication, to interconnection and to building those bridges. It’s this microcosm that really gives me hope for society at large. I think that the Olympics are the biggest platform for that,” Gu said.

The Olympic freestyle skiing champion, who grew up in the U.S. and now skiis for China attended the TIME100 Gala Wednesday in New York City with her mother. The 18-year-old appeared on the 2022 TIME100 list this year after she became the youngest freestyle ski champion in Beijing, where she won the gold medal in both big air and halfpipe, along with the silver in slopestyle.

Gu announced yesterday at the TIME100 Summit that she will serve as an ambassador for the U.S. bid to host the Winter Olympics in either 2030 or 2034 in Salt Lake City.

On the Gala red carpet, she explained why that work is in line with her beliefs about the power of sports. “Now there’s this amazing opportunity to introduce 15 more countries at the Salt Lake City Olympics, so it all comes together and I wanted to be a part of it,” she said.

Later, she said: “People have more impact than they realize,” adding, “Anybody can make that impact. I think as long as you find a way to make the world better in your own way, then that’s all we can ask.”

Gu also noted that she was one of the younger attendees at the TIME100 Gala.

“It is an honor beyond words to be a part of the TIME100 community now. As one of the younger people here it is my job to represent the younger generation and show that we have our voices too and that we want to be empowered, we want to see change, we want to find communication and connect with one another,” Gu said. “That’s something that I think is really beautiful. To be in this room with all these movers and shakers is a great honor to me.”

Returning after two years on pause, the TIME100 Gala is TIME’s annual celebration of the TIME100 list of the world’s most influential people, released this year on May 23. The Gala brings together icons, leaders, change-makers, and celebrities from across industries and nations for one lively evening of meaningful dialogue and celebration. This year’s Gala features live performances from Miranda Lambert and Mary J. Blige, two honorees on the 2022 TIME100 list. Further attendees from this year’s list include actors Andrew Garfield, Ariana DeBose, and Amanda Seyfried, musicians Jazmine Sullivan, Jon Batiste, and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, director Taika Waititi, and legal activist Chase Strangio.

TIME is teaming up with ABC to bring viewers inside the exclusive TIME100 Gala for the first time with a special television event. TIME100: The World’s Most Influential People airs Sunday, June 12 at 8 p.m. EDT on ABC, featuring host Simu Liu, director Quinta Brunson, Ukrainian journalist Sevgil Musaieva, and more.

—Mariah Espada contributed to this report.

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Write to Julia Zorthian at julia.zorthian@time.com.