Eileen Gu was securely in first place heading into the third and final run of the women’s freeski big air World Cup in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, on Saturday.
Gu – who represents China – landed a left side double cork 1080 safety to Japan grab for her first run. She then switched directions for a right double cork 1260 safety.
But for her final run – essentially a victory lap – she upped the difficulty even higher, throwing down a right side double cork 1440. She landed the trick cleanly to become the first woman to complete the trick in any freeskiing competition. (A video highlight of the historic trick – plus Gu’s first two runs – is embedded above.)
Gu’s final score came in at 184.25 points (out of a possible 200). France’s Tess Ledeux placed second (177.50) while Norway’s Johanne Killi finished third (177.00). No Americans made the final, with Darian Stevens (11th), Jenna Riccomini (13th), Maggie Voisin (15th), Marin Hamill (18th), Grace Henderson (25th), and Caroline Claire (27th) not making it out of the qualifying round.
“I really wanted to push it,” Gu told reporters in Steamboat Springs. “The boys were so inspiring out here throwing absolutely insane tricks, so I really wanted to represent the women as well and kind of step it up to the next level.”
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Gu was born in San Francisco and initially competed for the United States, but she announced in 2019 that she would be switching her national affiliation in order to represent China. The 18-year-old is fluent in Mandarin and grew up taking yearly trips to China with her mother Yan, who was born in Beijing.
Gu is expected to be a medal threat in all three freeskiing events at the upcoming 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. She had similar success at both the 2021 X Games and 2021 World Championships, where she won gold in halfpipe and slopestyle, in addition to bronze in big air.
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While snowboarding big air debuted at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics will mark the debut of the freeskiing version.
Gu said Saturday’s World Cup win helped give her a confidence boost in big air, her so-called weak event.
“I’ve always thought of myself as a slopestyle skier and a halfpipe skier and now after this I guess I’m a big air skier, too.”
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