Eileen Gu takes big air skiing gold with dramatic final run in Beijing

Nicknamed ‘snow princess’, Gu lands a first 1620 on her final jump in women’s freestyle big air event

Arpan Rai
Tuesday 08 February 2022 12:55 GMT
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Eileen Gu takes gold with dramatic final run in Beijing

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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San Francisco-born Eileen Gu secured her first gold medal for China on Tuesday in a dramatic fashion, landing a first 1620 on her final jump in women’s freestyle big air event.

Gu, who gave up her American citizenship to compete for the hosts in Beijing, finished ahead of France’s Tess Ledeux who had been leading throughout the event.

Nicknamed the “snow princess”, Gu had previously hinted that she could compete with Ledeux as the only other woman in the game to successfully land a 1620 — 4 1/2 spins — and she pulled it off on Tuesday.

After landing the jump in her third run, Gu dropped to her knees when her score of 94.50 was announced and it was confirmed that her total score of 188.25 topped Ledeux’s 187.5.

Ledeux had tried to improve her score by coming into the jump backwards for a switch 1440.

However, she landed with one ski on the ground and another still in the air, paving the way for Gu’s gold.

The 18-year-old left her mark amid immense hype to perform in China, her adopted country.

A medal favourite, Gu is the first action sport athlete to have reached the podium for big air, slopestyle and halfpipe.

Skier Mathilde Gremaud from Switzerland secured a bronze.

Gu has been at the receiving end of criticism from her homeland US for turning down the opportunity to play from there and instead compete for China.

“I’ve gotten a lot of hate, a lot of people saying ‘It’s a question of loyalty and which country she likes more,’” she had said.

“It’s really not. It was really a big thing between the impact I would be able to have and what I’d be able to do with skiing.”

She, however, believes she can be a role model for young girls in China.

“In the US, growing up, I had so many amazing idols to look up to. But in China, I feel like there are a lot fewer of those. I’d have a much greater impact in China than in the US, and that’s ultimately why I made that decision,” Gu had said last year.

Gu also works as a model and playing for China has just added to her list of lucrative moves. Posters of the player, who has made appearances for top brands like Vogue, Victoria’s Secret, Louis Vuitton, and Tiffany, are plastered across Beijing.

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