Eileen Gu shines to win her first Games gold

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( China Daily )

With the world hailing the arrival of a new sports superstar, China’s freeski Olympic champion Gu Ailing wants to remain the girl next door to inspire more youngsters to push their own boundaries.

Carrying the host nation’s biggest medal hope on the snow, Gu, a versatile skier competing in three events at the Beijing Winter Olympics, delivered big time on Tuesday. The 18-year-old won the freestyle skiing big air event’s Olympic debut with dazzling maneuvers.

Gu was pushed hard by silver medalist Tess Ledeux of France, who finished the first two runs on top. On her third and final run, Gu gambled on a trick she’d never done in competition before-a left double cork 1620 jump that involves four and a half spins while rotating two times off-axis in the air.

To a rousing reaction from the small crowd, Gu landed the maneuver to take the gold with a winning total of 188.25 points, which included 93.75 from her first run after she landed a double cork 1440. Competitors do three runs and only the two best scores count toward the final total.

Today, Gu is an Olympic champion, an incoming Stanford University student, part-time fashion model and an accomplished piano player.

She is also on track to become a bright sports star in the world’s most populous nation, which she visits during summer vacations. She is called the “Snow Princess “by her 3.4 million followers on Weibo.

Gu prides herself on understanding the two cultures she straddles, and her affinity with China is strengthened by her family’s ties with Beijing.

“You can see from the top of the Big Air course there is a tower, and I can also see it from my house in Beijing as well. So I really felt like there was a sense of coming home competing at the Games,” she said.

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