BEIJING (AP) — Eileen Gu of China cranked out the first 1620 of her career on her final jump, stunning France’s Tess Ledeux and earning the first of what she hopes will be three gold medals in women’s freestyle big air.
Nicknamed the “Snow Princess,” Gu is among the biggest local names at the Beijing Games. She’s a medal favorite in big air, slopestyle and halfpipe. Her first stab at gold came down to the last round.
Gu hinted after qualifying Monday that she might be able to match Ledeux. With everything on the line, she did. The 18-year-old from San Francisco shrieked when she landed the jump, then dropped to her knees when her score of 94.50 was announced.
Gu has been in the spotlight for her decision to complete for China instead of Team USA. Gu’s mother is from the host country. It’s a decision that has caused some backlash for the California-born and bred skier.
Gu says she made the decision because she wanted to be a role model for young girls in China who have not had many female athletes to look up to over the decades. She’s clear-eyed about how she defines herself.
“When I’m in China, I’m Chinese,” Gu told the Olympic Channel in 2020. “When I’m in the U.S., I’m American.’
Ledeux tried to improve on her second run in Round 3, coming into the jump backward for a switch 1440. She was shaky on the landing, though, clearing the way for Gu’s gold.
(The Associated Press’ Sally Ho contributed to this report.)