Medals update: Ailing (Eileen) Gu soars best to scoop first women’s freeski big air gold

Ailing (Eileen) Gu took the gold in the first-ever Olympic big air freestyle skiing competition -- and she was followed to the podium by Tess Ledeux of France (silver) and Switzerland's Mathilde Gremaud (bronze).

By Jonah Fontela
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

The finals action from the Shougang Industrial Park saw a decided step-up from yesterday’s qualifiers, with the women pushing hard and flying high in a chase for the first-ever freestyle skiing big-air gold medal on offer here at the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games.

Team China’s Ailing (Eileen) Gu brought the home fans to their feet with her first run (a huge double cork 1440). And she kept them there all the way through to her third, when she sealed an historic top-of-the-podium finish in style.

“That was the best moment of my life. The happiest moment, day, whatever — of my life. I just cannot believe what just happened," said an ecstatic Gu after winning her gold medal. "

It all came down to the last three runs of the day, with Gu, Tess Ledeux of France and Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland all guaranteed places on the podium.

All that needed to be sorted was the order.

Gu, going first, pulled off a massive 1620 with a perfect landing to move herself just barely into first place with a combined score of 188.25. Gremaud came down on her back going big and was unable to overtake the 18-year-old USA-born phenom who’s fast become the darling of the host nation -- and a three-discipline gold-medal contender (big air, slopestyle and halfpipe).

"That was a trick I have never done before, had never attempted before. Yes, I’ve thought about it a lot, but to put it down on my third run in the first Olympic freeski final in history means the world to me," Gu added.

Gu sends big message

"Even if I didn’t land it, I felt it would send a message out to the world and hopefully encourage more girls to break their own boundaries," Gu went on. "That was my biggest goal going into my last run. I reminded myself to have fun and enjoy the moment and that, no matter what, I was so grateful to even have this opportunity to even be here."

Ledeux, who wowed the crowd all night with an array of elegant and high-flying tricks, went big in the final run of the event in hopes of turning the result her way. But a rough landing saw her fail to beat Gu for gold and the French star, competing in her second Olympics, finished with a combined score of 187.50 and the silver medal.

"It was emotional," Ledeux said of losing out on gold by such a thin margin. "When you lose first place and the Olympic championship by 0.75 points, in this moment it feels a little bad. But I recall all my accomplishments of this past year and I am very happy for this dream because I am still at the Olympic Games."

"I really skied my best today," she added. "I could not have done better."

The bronze medal went to Gremaud with a score of 182.50.

"It was insane. I gave it all I had and I'm so happy to have come away with a medal," she said after skiing beautifully and bravely on her 22nd birthday. "It's the best present for sure."

The slopestyle event – which will consist of the same field of freeskiers – takes place at the Genting Snow Park from 12 to 13 February, with the women’s halfpipe competition set for 16 and 17 February.

Women’s freestyle skiing big air

  • 1 Ailing (Eileen) Gu (CHN) 188.25
  • 2 Tess Ledeux (FRA) 187.50
  • 3 Mathilde Gremaud (SUI) 182.50

LOVE FREESTYLE SKIING? GET ALL THIS.

Olympic Winter Games news. Curated highlights. Personalised updates.