Ailing (Eileen) Gu continued her rampage at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games Beijing with a dominant performance in the best of her three disciplines: the women’s freeski halfpipe.
Her opening run score of 93.25 on a windy day in the superpipe was more than enough for the gold medal. But she had more to offer still as she sent a clear message to the rest of the competing field – and the whole of the watching world.
The victory for the USA-born Gu – who chose to ski for the People’s Republic of China (the country of her mother’s birth) and won all four halfpipe freeski events on the current FIS world cup tour – is her third medal of these Olympics Games (and her second gold after also taking the top spot in the big air debut).
"It was pretty windy today, I was struggling during practice especially with speed and so in my first run it just felt so good to put it down and to be able to have a score," Gu said after the event. "Skiing is all about fun and individuality and being able to express yourself and find that flow, and for myself I really find that in halfpipe.
"Being able to feel the rhythm of the walls, and being able to put unique grabs, to try different axis, spin different directions - it's really fun and it's the essence of the sport," she continued. "I'm really honoured to be able to tap into that."
Gu's now the only freeskier in history to win three medals in one Olympics.
Beside the 18-year-old phenom on the podium were defending Olympic gold medallist from PyeongChang 2018 Cassie Sharpe of Canada, who won the silver medal with some stylish 1080s and a score of 90.75 – and her countrywoman Rachael Karker who scooped bronze with some big air (87.75).
"I've been through hell and back the last year, so I'm just so grateful that all the pieces that I've worked so hard on came together today," said Sharpe about her silver-winning performance. "Every run was just better than the last."
When asked about her future plans, Sharpe added: "I'm going to get married, have a baby, get a dog -- do all the life things."
"I was hoping to come out with a medal and I just hoped I'd make Canada proud and happy to be here," said Karker after winning the bronze. "I'm excited to build on this and hopefully to get to another Games at some point."
Gu opened her first run (as the top qualifier she went last among the first round of 12 skiers in the best-run-of-three format) with a huge cork 900, complete with a tricky Buick grab – made famous by Team USA men’s slopestyle gold medallist Alex Hall.
It was enough to put her well into first place (with 4.25 points more than her closest chaser), but she had more to say as she continued to revolutionise the sport of women’s freeski halfpipe here in Beijing.
She soared nearly four metres out of the pipe in her second run and upgraded her trick selection to include a pair of back-to-back alley-oop flat spins – earning her a score up in the stratosphere (95.25).
In her third run, with the win wrapped up with a bow, Gu chose to show her style in a victory lap that thrilled the crowd.
"It has been two straight weeks of the most intense highs and lows I've ever experienced in my life," Gu admitted. "It has changed my life forever.
"I'm so honoured to be here," added the three-medal hero of the home nation. "And I'm even more honoured by this platform that I've been given to spread this message and inspire young girls through my own passion for the sport and to be able to hopefully spread the sport to people that might not have heard of it before."
Today’s halfpipe finals closed out the freeski women’s events at these Beijing Olympic Winter Games.
Women’s freestyle skiing halfpipe results
- 1 - Ailing (Eileen) Gu (CHN) 95.25
- 2 - Cassie Sharpe (CAN) 90.75
- 3 - Rachael karker (CAN) 87.75