Eileen Gu advances on busy day of freestyle at Olympics
ZHANGJIAKOU, China (AP) — Trying for three gold medals in one Olympics is a hectic business. So it was no surprise that Eileen Gu was a skier in a hurry Monday.
China’s burgeoning freestyle superstar munched on a fried dumpling filled with chives and vermicelli noodles while she awaited her score in slopestyle qualifying. It came up. She had made it through to the final. And then she rushed over to practice on the halfpipe, where the contest starts later this week.
After opening with a mistake-filled trip down the deep-frozen slopestyle course that put her qualifying in jeopardy, Gu nailed the second run on a sunny, minus-7 degree F (minus-21 degree C) day at the Genting Snow Park.
She scored a 79.38 — good for third, and comfortably among the top 12 who moved into Tuesday’s final.
“I didn’t have time to sit in the lodge,” Gu explained hours later, once her halfpipe practice was complete. “I’m a very aggressive practicer. For me, practice is go-go-go. I brought lunch. I was eating on the t-bar. I was done by the time I got to the top, and ready to drop in immediately.”
The 18-year-old Gu has struggled in qualifying in both of her Olympic events so far. She fell once during last week’s big air preliminaries and had to nail a pressure-packed third jump to ensure her spot in the final, where she went on to capture the gold medal.
“Qualifying is the most nerve-wracking thing,” she said. “It’s not a something where I want to be in that position, but I’m proud that I consistently perform under pressure. I put it down on my last run, scaled the difficulty back to focus on consistency, and I was happy to put it down.”
Gu, whose Chinese name is “Gu Ailing,” has a chance to take over the final week of the Olympics.
Born in the United States and competing for her mother’s home country of China, she has been dominating the airwaves on commercials, and on the mountain. She is trying to become the first action-sports star to win three medals at the same Olympics.
Tess Ledeux of France and Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland have a chance at two medals. The second- and third-place finishers from big air each made it into the top 12 for slopestyle. So did Kelly Sildaru, who skis for Estonia. Like Gu, she is entered into all three events — big air, slopestyle and halfpipe.
All action on the slopestyle course was pushed back 24 hours after qualifying was postponed because of a windswept snowstorm that hit the mountain Sunday. That made getting to Monday’s halfpipe practice a rush.
Nobody has been in a bigger hurry than China’s newest daredevil, who skied for the U.S. team before making the switch in 2019.
“I’ve had a couple good days of practice,” Gu said. “So, hopefully, I can put it down and represent myself well, represent China well and represent the U.S. well.”
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