Eileen Gu changes the game on freeski finals Friday

The 18 year-old set a new gold standard in the halfpipe on Copper Mountain with her massive score of 96.00 sending shockwaves through the women's freeski world on a third day of Dew Tour action that also saw her earn slopestyle silver and Team USA – led by Colby Stevenson – finish one, two, three (and four) in the men's slopestyle. 

By Jonah Fontela
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Friday was all about freestyle skiing as day-three of the Copper Mountain, Colorado stop on the 2021 Dew Tour witnessed the women’s halfpipe and slopestyle events (with a gold and silver finish respectively for Chinese-American triple-threat Eileen Gu) and a dramatic men’s slopestyle final that ended with Colby Stevenson edging out close friend Alexander Hall on the last run of the day to seal an all-USA podium.

Olympic intentions

Her second run might have been the best women’s halfpipe performance in history.

And watching Eileen Gu in her third run – a virtual no-risk victory lap after already sealing the halfpipe gold – you got the distinct impression she has more to offer.

“It felt really, really good. It was my first time combining [some of those] tricks in a competition. So that’s a real step up for me,” said Gu, who's on a three-discipline podium tear with a recent Big Air win in Steamboat, halfpipe grand prix gold (also in Copper Mountain) and today’s halfpipe and slopestyle finishes.

“It’s all about having fun and pushing myself and pushing the sport forward -- just being a tiny part of that is my goal. I’m really proud of my second run, but I still want to step it up,” said the USA-born skier who, competing for the host nation at the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics, could become the first action-sports athlete to win three gold medals at the same Games.

“I know I have more in the tank, but being able to win this contest means so much to me,” she added.

Gu owns freeski pipe

Her performance in the superpipe was nothing short of astonishing.

Gu opened her first run with a stern warning to the chasing pack, throwing down a pair of 900s before finishing with back-to-back alioop back-spins for a score of 94.50 (out of 100) – a full point more than her winning run in qualifying.

And that was only the beginning.

Her second effort was the stuff of dreams. An inverted 720 upped the ante in a big way as Gu carved out a technical level none of her competitors could match. Her score of 96.00 was, quite simply, untouchable.

While Gu dominated the women’s halfpipe, USA’s huge-air specialist, 17-year-old Hanna Faulhaber, earned a place on the podium (bronze with a score of 90.75) in her first-ever Dew Tour event.

The result, built on some massive 16-foot soaring airs, saw the Colorado native take a giant step closer to earning a place at the Beijing Games with Team USA

Four-time X Games champion Kelly Sildaru of Estonia took second place (silver) with a technically impressive performance that still ended up three points off Gu’s torrid pace (93.00)

Ledeux edges Gu to slopestyle gold

There wasn’t much time for Gu to grab a quick bite to eat before she was back up on the mountain for the women’s freeski slopestyle finals.

There she hoped to pick up her second gold medal of the day but, instead, had to settle for a gold-silver outing.

“I was really struggling with the speed today,” said Gu after winning her second medal with just a two-hour break in which she “ate some french toast,” hugged her mom and hoped her “life spent in running sports” would give her the stamina to pull through a double-event session. “I’m just happy to pull through – and it was super-fun.”

Tess Ledeux – a two-time X Games gold medallist and world champion – won the top spot on the podium.

“I’m so happy,” said Ledeux, who earned the only 90+ score on a challenging day of high winds and slow speeds. “The speed was sketchy but I am super happy to have landed a good run. The level of women’s freestyle skiing is incredible right now and getting higher and higher and I am so proud to be part of this moment."

Johanne Killi of Norway finished in third behind Ledeux and Gu after fending off firm challenges from Mathilde Gremaud and Giulia Tanno in an event which saw Sildaru, who won this season's only other women's freeski slopestyle event, drop out of the competition.

Skiing without poles in the halfpipe event earlier in the day, the Estonian decided to protect her broken (and fully casted) hand.

Stevenson tops USA 1-2-3

The only men’s event of the day saw a 1-2-3 (4) Team USA sweep in the men’s slopestyle final.

Colby Stevenson, who led the field coming out of the qualifiers, was pushed all the way by fellow American Alexander Hall. The pair traded the lead throughout an exhilarating three-run-for-all competition.

Hall, born in Alaska, raised in Switzerland and a ballet dancer on the rail sections, took the lead first with powerful 1620 kickers on both of his first two runs.

But Stevenson, who, like Hall, skis out of Park City, Utah, overtook the leader and wasn’t to be denied.

In a dramatic finish, it was the final run that saw Stevenson get the 96.25 he needed. An elegant nose-butter double cork on the second jump and a huge grab finale sealed victory and a 1-2-3 podium for the Americans (with two-time Olympian Nick Goepper earning bronze).

Talented Americans send Beijing message

“It’s tough out there, but we’re all doing what we need to do,” said second-place Hall of a course slowed down by overnight snowfall.

Colby Stevenson
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

“We’re all such good friends, but we want to see everyone do well and may the best men win," Stevenson added, as the USA men's freeski slopestyle team takes shape and look a bit like medal contenders ahead of Beijing 2022. "We're out there having fun and pushing each other’s motivation and skill level.

“It’s amazing to have a sweep [American],” continued Stevenson, who missed out on the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang with a torn rotator cuff after fighting his way back from traumatic injuries suffered in a 2016 auto wreck. “It just shows that our team has put in the work and we’re ready for what’s to come."

Tomorrow (Saturday 18 December) is a busy penultimate day on the Copper Mountain Dew Tour with the men’s and women’s snowboard slopestyle finals and the men’s freeski halfpipe finals.

Sunday’s grand finale will have the snowboard halfpipe finals featuring USA’s Chloe Kim and Maddie Mastro on the women’s side.

In the men's competition, USA's Shaun White will be looking to find his true form on a hunt for a fourth Olympic gold medal. But a crew of hugely talented Japanese riders, led by Ayumu Hirano, are keen to spoil the party.

Colby Stevenson tops all-America men's podium in Dew Tour freeski slopestyle finals

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