courtesy @india_narrative on Twitter

Nils van der Poel gives away gold medal in protest of Chinese regime.

Sports editor Callie Hummel covers van der Poel’s disgust at the government’s record of human rights abuses.

Nils van der Poel, a 25-year-old Olympian who won the first gold medal for Sweden speedskating in 34 years, recently gave one of those medals away to protest China’s human rights abuses.

The speedskater made a large impact during the Winter 2022 Games, receiving a gold medal in both the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters and setting a new Olympic records for both events. Van der Poel revealed in a training manifesto published post-Olympics the intensity at which he trained for the gold medal that he eventually gave to Angela Gui.

Angela Gui is the daughter of Gui Minhai, a man who has been found and arrested by the Chinese government on multiple occasions. Minhai is the owner of a Hong-Kong publishing house that bought Causeway Books which regularly published “gossipy titles about China’s political elite.” Although Minhai is a Swedish citizen, the articles and titles infuriated the Chinese government and Minhai went missing for a year in 2015. When Minhai reappeared, he “admitted” to multiple crimes on Thailand TV, where he originally disappeared. The confession landed him two years in jail, after which he was released and began to travel again. His freedom didn’t last long though, as in 2018 he was arrested while traveling in Beijing and, after a secret trial, sentenced to 10 years in a Chinese jail for “illegally providing intelligence to overseas parties.”

Since Minhai is a Swedish citizen, Sweden continuously tried to demand China to release their citizen back home, to no avail. The disappearance and jail time proved to be no coincidence to the publishing company, as five other people associated with the store disappeared between 2015-2018, which enhanced fears throughout the publishing and reporting industries.

Van der Poel explained he had been planning to speak out against this “oppression of free speech and human rights” after competing in the Olympics. He would have done it earlier, but all the athletes were thoroughly and continuously warned by Chinese officials that they would face punishments if they spoke out against Chinese laws.

Now that the Games are over, van der Poel has been very vocal about how he felt like competing in Beijing was a sort of exploitation of his talents to make it seem like he, and other athletes, supported the regime. He also told a Swedish newspaper that he believed it was “very irresponsible to hold the Games in a country that violates human rights.”

It’s obvious van der Poel is very passionate about wanting to improve the oppression seen in China, especially since Minhai, an international story now, is a Swedish man who was taken by the Chinese government. The case hit home to him, which is why he wanted to give the medal that he worked so hard for to Gui.

Gui told van der Poel when they met that she’d “very much like for Nils’ medal to also be able to, at least in some small way, represent solidarity with everyone threatened, imprisoned, or killed by totalitarian regimes everywhere.”

Post Author: Callie Hummel