The freestyle skiing women’s slopestyle finals, rescheduled from Saturday when they were postponed due to heavy weather and high winds at the Genting Snow Park, offered up a three-way blockbuster with Swiss skier Mathilde Gremaud taking the gold but chased all the way by Ailing (Eileen) Gu of the People's Republic of China (silver) and Estonia's Kelly Sildaru (bronze).
"It was a crazy day yesterday," Gremaud said of finishing in the last qualifying place (12th) of the qualifying rounds. "I barely made it to finals, but today was a new day and I woke up with good energy and positivity and I was excited to ski and I now have a complete set of Olympic medals [slopestyle silver in 2018 and bronze from the freeski big air here in Beijing].
"I dreamed of this as a kid," the 22-year-old Swiss skier added. "There are just no words."
Sildaru, the 19-year-old from the virtually mountain-less Baltic nation of Estonia, finished the opening round in top position after her big first run, capped with a huge switch 900, was enough for a score of 82.06. It was better than early chasers Gu and France's Tess Ledeux (who eventually finished in disappointing seventh place) and the only score in the first round to crack the 80-point mark.
Gu’s fall near the end of the rail section in her second run opened the door even wider for the rest of the field and Sildaru put together a blistering run in her second effort that was only spoiled on the final jump when her ski came off on the landing.
The third and final round started with Gremaud in first after moving from last to top with a showstopping second run to make up for a fall in her first attempt. Sildaru was in second and USA’s Maggie Voisin sat in third.
Gu, way down in eighth after her tumble, was still within striking distance. The teenage sensation – and the pride of the host nation who has already won one gold here in Beijing (big air) and will compete in the halfpipe on 16 February – pulled off a huge third run with a massive 900 capper that put her into second place with two skiers still to go.
It all came down to the final run of the night – as it seems to so often do in the wonderful world of the slopestyle events. And Sildaru, already assured of a place on the podium, sent it in a big way with two back-to-back switch 1080s before she endured a long wait for the judges to score her best effort of the night.
In the end, it wasn’t enough to seal a first-ever freeski gold for Sildaru or Estonia as Gremaud – who showed grit, determination and high-flying skills in a second run that no one could match – won the day for Switzerland.
"It came down to the last run again and I'm happy that I was able to push through and turn that pressure into fuel," said silver-winner Gu, who now has two Beijing 2022 medals. "My goal coming in was to win one gold and get to one more podium, so I've met that goal and I'm going into my strongest event [halfpipe] next week."
Sildaru, who won a first-ever medal in freeski for her country, was over the moon with her third-place position on the podium. "I can't explain how happy I am write now," said the skier who missed the last Olympics with injury. "It's been such a great experience and walking away with the bronze is just so amazing."
Women’s freestyle skiing slopestyle results
- 1 - Mathilde Gremaud (SUI) 86.56
- 2 - Ailing (Eileen) Gu (CHN) 86.23
- 3 - Kelly Sildaru (EST) 82.06