Eileen Gu is living her best 18-year-old life

With 100 days to go to Beijing 2022, Olympics.com spoke to the Chinese-American freestyle skier who already has three X Games and world championship medals to her name, as well as a Vogue cover and acceptance to her dream college. Can life get any better for the teenager in February when the Winter Games begin?

By Jo Gunston and Ash Tulloch
Picture by OIS

Chinese-American freestyle skier, Eileen Gu, is having the best year of her life, something she'd love to see continue into the new year and the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games, which start 4 February.

In January, Gu became the first rookie to win three medals at X Games – gold in halfpipe and slopestyle and bronze in Big Air. At the same location in February, Gu replicated those medals in the world championships.

Off the snow, Gu appeared on the cover of Vogue, attended the fashionista favourite, the Met Gala, and also got accepted to her dream college – Stanford. She has just turned 18.

Olympics.com caught up with the skier on an Instagram Live on Wednesday (27 October) to hear how she feels now it's just 100 days to go to the start of the Games.

It's 100 days to Beijing 2022. How does that make you feel?

"I feel like for so long the Olympics has been this faraway beacon, like it’s this goal that has helped me to motivate myself during training but it’s never really an event that’s actually going to arrive. And now that it’s 100 days away it’s suddenly becoming more and more real.

So I think it’s really crazy that it’s 100 days away and I’m really excited but I don’t think that anybody going to the Olympics would ever say they are 100 per cent ready."

What do you think would make you 100 per cent ready?

"I mean it goes beyond just your capability to do a trick or your capability to land a run. I think the Olympics are such a special event that there’s the hype surrounding it, there are all the countries coming together, there’s the village, there’s the athlete community, and that is something that can’t really be replicated in any other event.

So even if I competed in 100 other set-up events, nothing is really going to compare fully to the Olympics because that experience is so unique, in and of itself, mentally. So in that sense, I’m kind of embracing the unknown because I know I’m never going to be able to experience it unless I just go and do the things, so that’s kind of my game plan right now, I’m just going to go and do the things."

You had a busy year last year, not just winning two golds in X Games plus a bronze... and replicated that at the world championships this year but you also went to the Met Gala. What has been the highlight of the year so far for you?

"Oh man, this year has definitely been the best year of my life. I would say winning X Games, I was the first person in history to win three medals in her rookie year at X Games so that was really insane. And then doing the same thing at world championships again did a lot for my confidence and taught me a lot about dealing with pressure especially in competing, so I think that was really good experience for skiing.

Outside of skiing I had my first Vogue cover, I went to the Met Gala, I have just been learning so much about the fashion world and figuring out what I want my space in that to be.

Right now I’m working on a really exciting project with Vogue China where I get to go behind the scenes like creative direct a little bit more so that’s really exciting. I got into my dream school, Stanford, so there’s a lot of things to be excited about."

You mentioned the word pressure before, so how do you feel about some of the things that have been written about you – like ‘Eileen Gu, Chinese sports icon’, ‘Superstar in the making’, ‘Ski prodigy’, ‘Freeski daredevil to become the face of Beijing 2022’?

"Those things are funny. First of all, thank you. Those are all positive headlines so I have nothing to complain about and I’m happy my name is being portrayed in a positive light and happy that people think highly of me and people look up to me, so that’s all I can really ask for in that sense.

I think it goes back to what I was saying with X Games and world championships this year, is that I think my whole perspective of pressure and outside pressure especially changed. Like before I would think 'oh I’m at this competition, I have to prove myself, I have to do well so that other people are impressed and a little girl skier is going to think highly of me or so this person is going to think more highly of me'.

But now I think after X Games and world championships, I realised that I’m taking part in an extreme sport where things are innately unpredictable – the weather, the course, the course format, the number of rails, the size of the jumps, the angle of the whole course, like everything can change. So in that sense, it doesn’t make sense to expect the same person to come out on top or on the bottom every single time. That’s just the nature of the sport...

...The only thing I can do is my best on the day and if that is a gold medal then I’ll be super hyped and if that is not then I will still be super hyped because I work hard and a lot of people don’t get to see what happens behind the scenes."

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games take place from 4-20 February 2022.

GU Ailing Eileen
Picture by 2020 Getty Images

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