SKI SUPERSTAR Eileen Gu lived up to her airfare by winning the Women’s Big Air Olympic title ahead of Thomas Bach and Peng Shuai.
The 18-year-old American-born Victoria’s Secret model wrote her name in Chinese folklore when she claimed the freestyle skiing crown at Beijing’s former Shuogang Steelworks.
Posting a sensational score of 94.50 in her third and final run – the first time she had completed a lap of four and a half rotations – the 18-year-old went straight to the top of the leaderboard with an overall score of 188.25.
French vaulter Tess Ledeux failed to put in an effective final run, giving the home favorite the first of likely three gold medals on her Olympic debut.
The “Snow Princess”, who has 1.3 million fans on the social media platform Weibo, will return to slopestyle and halfpipe and could perhaps cement her star position at these Games.
Kirtsy Muir, 17, of Aberdeen, finished fifth with a total of 169, although she was third after the first run of 12 women.
After the event, Muir told the BBC: “I’m so happy right now, honestly the level was crazy.
“It’s incredible [to be a part of it]. I couldn’t have hoped to ski better today and I’m so proud of all the girls.
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“I have a bit of schooling to catch up on, that’s for sure. I’m focusing on my next event and then it’s back to school.”
It has become one of the most anticipated events of the Games since Gu, who was born and raised in California, moved to China.
Gu is an American citizen but made her decision with input from her Chinese mother Yan, an outspoken “tiger mom” while her American father remains in the background.
Gu, who speaks Mandarin and frequently visited China as a child, says she changed her nationality to “inspire millions of young people where my mother was born” and that it was “a unique opportunity to contribute to promote the sport that I love”. ”.
As someone who “loves the sound of camera shutters” and who has appeared on the cover pages of Chinese versions of Vogue, Harper’s and Elle magazines, Gu will be inundated with television and commercial opportunities once these games come to an end. Covid successes ended.
Of course, cynics will argue about the potential financial gains she will now make in the world’s largest emerging snow market – and Twitter trolls immediately began calling her a traitor to the American cause.
There was a crowd of up to 300 fans who witnessed history at Big Air Shuogang in an abandoned part of town.
It was the first time that IOC President Bach and former tennis player Peng were photographed together.
An opportunity that many see as a public relations exercise to appease westerners who have demanded details of his whereabouts and safety over the past three months.
After winning the gold, Gu said, “I actually felt quite confident. I played the piano for nine years so I’m very sensitive to the sense of rhythm.
“Whether I landed it or not, it was a testament to my character that I wanted to show the world.
“I think sport is really a way to unite people. It’s not something that can be used to divide people. We’re all here together, pushing the human limit.
“I grew up spending 25-30% of every year in China. I feel like I’m as American as I am Chinese.
“My mission is to use sport as a uniting force, to use it as a form of interconnection between countries and not to use it as a divisive force.
“It benefits everyone and if you don’t agree with it, I think that’s someone else’s problem.
“It doesn’t matter if I do this trick, I win because the whole world can see my mind. I want to break boundaries for girls, they can think as long as Eileen can do it, they can do it too.
“Here’s the thing. I’m not trying to keep everyone happy, I’m 18 and living my best life. I’m having a good time.
“It doesn’t matter whether the others are happy or not. I know I have a good heart.
“I’m not going to waste my time trying to appease people who are uneducated one and two, they’re not going to feel the gratitude and love that I’m so blessed to experience on a daily basis.
“If they don’t believe me, and if people don’t like me, it’s their loss: they will never win the Olympics.”
When told that former Wimbledon doubles champion Peng was watching in the stands, Gu said, “I’m really happy to hear that she was here today.
“It’s a great honor when athletes from other sports come to pay attention to smaller sports like freeskiing. I’m really grateful that she’s happy and healthy and doing her thing here again. .