2022 Beijing Olympics – Freestyle Skiing – Women’s Freeski Slopestyle – Final – Run 3 – Genting Snow Park, Zhangjiakou, China – February 15, 2022. Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland in action. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
February 15, 2022
By Mari Saito and Winni Zhou
ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) -Switzerland’s Mathilde Gremaud won gold in the women’s freeski slopestyle at the Beijing Olympics on Tuesday, while China’s home favourite, Eileen Gu, was roared on by fans in the final but had to settle for silver.
China’s “Snow Princess” Gu went all out from the beginning, landing a double cork 1080 with the Japan grab in a clean and controlled first run, but hit the deck on her second try, forcing her to sit on her skis to take a breath.
The fall piled the pressure on Gu ahead of her third and final run and while she earned 86.23 it was not enough to top Gremaud’s best of 86.56, with Estonia’s Kelly Sildaru taking bronze with 82.06.
Gu hugged her fellow medallists after her score was called out, smiling broadly at the camera, making a heart gesture with her arms and waving to fans in the stands.
Taking a pork bun out of a plastic container after the final, the 18-year-old Gu apologised to a crowd of reporters for always eating while taking questions.
“I just have no other time to eat,” the San Francisco-born skier said as she took a bite.
“I wanted to get on the podium more than anything, so landing that (third run) I felt happy, I felt relieved,” Gu said, adding that she had put herself under intense pressure after failing on her second try.
Gu said she would think about the narrow difference between her best score and that of the Swiss skier, but said she was “honoured” to take silver and compete at the Olympics.
“I didn’t win the contest but I still walked away with a silver medal after a gold medal (at Big Air) … so I’m proud of myself,” she said.
Gremaud, 22, who won silver in slopestyle at the Pyeongchang Games in 2018 and bronze in the Big Air event last week, held back her firepower until her second run, which catapulted her to the top of the rankings.
Sildaru’s runs were full of mid-air grabs but she lost balance and fell in her second run, losing her skis and having to walk down the course.
Sildaru, taking part in her first Olympic Games, said she had competed against Gu many times before at international contests, but had never seen so much local love for her.
“I understand the hype,” the Estonian said, adding that she hoped to compete at an Olympics in her home country one day.
Supporters bundled up in heavy coats cheered Gu on in the half-filled stands at the Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou, waving small pink flags decorated with the popular Olympic mascot, a panda in an ice suit.
A line of venue staff and volunteers gathered for the final run, eager to catch a glimpse of Gu.
(Reporting by Mari Saito; Editing by Peter Rutherford, Robert Birsel)
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