Winter Olympics: Eileen Gu wins halfpipe gold, makes freeskiing history

Eileen Ailing Gu won gold in women's ski halfpipe at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China
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On Friday at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Eileen Gu won gold in the women’s freeskiing halfpipe final, marking Gu’s third medal in Beijing. On Her Turf provided live updates and highlights as competition at Genting Snow Park unfolded.

Women’s Freeskiing Halfpipe – Live Updates:

8:30pm ET: And we’re off! Twelve athletes qualified into the final (start list below). Each athlete will take three runs, with their best score counting towards their final ranking.

8:32pm ET: Oof. VERY GUSTY conditions that athletes are detailing with today at Genting Snow Park. It’s also a mild 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

8:34pm ET: Here comes Team USA’s Carly Margulies, who has had such a journey just to reach these 2022 Winter Olympics. She has had a total of seven procedures to fix ACL tears, damaged meniscus and even one to fill existing holes in her knee. Her most recent surgery was just two months ago. Not the best run from Margulies, who falls midway through, but she has another two chances.

8:36pm ET: And here is Margulies’ U.S. teammate Hanna Faulhaber. Faulhaber has actually looked up to Margulies, who is seven years older, for most of her career. A few years ago, Margulies wrote her a note of support, and Faulhaber tacked it up on her wall to serve as inspiration. Both athletes are making their Olympic debut in Beijing. Faulhaber moves into first place with a strong first run (video below).

8:45pm ET: Wow. Very strong run from Canada’s Cassie Sharpe, the defending Olympic champion in this event, who has dealt with a knee injury in the last year. She moves into first with a score of 89.00.

8:50pm ET: A great run from Estonia’s Kelly Sildaru, who really showcases her trick repertoire. Sildaru, along with China’s Eileen Gu, are the only freeskiers competing in three events in Beijing (halfpipe, slopestyle, big air). Sildaru won silver in slopestyle earlier this week, marking her nation’s first ever winter Olympic medal in a sport other than cross-country skiing.

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8:53pm ET: Super solid run from Canada’s Rachael Karker. She moves into second with a score of 87.75.

8:56pm ET: Eileen Guwho was born in San Francisco but competes for her mother’s homeland of China – appears on her way to win her third medal in her third event at these 2022 Winter Olympics. She moves into first place with a score of 93.25. “Let’s go!” Gu shouts when her score comes down.

Video of Eileen Gu’s strong first run in the women’s halfpipe final at the 2022 Winter Olympics:

8:57pm ET: Here are the top five after the first run. If the standings hold, Eileen Gu will become the first freestyle skier to win three medals at a single Olympics.

  1. Eileen Gu (CHN) – 93.25
  2. Cassie Sharpe (CAN) – 89.00
  3. Rachael Karker (CAN) – 87.75
  4. Hannah Faulhaber (USA) – 85.25
  5. Li Fanghui (CHN) – 81.75

9:03pm ET: Carly Margulies stalls halfway through the pipe on her second run. Appears she’s having issues with her skis; a binding broke on her first run.

9:06pm ET: Another really strong run from Hanna Faulhaber of the United States. But it’s not enough to move her up in the standings. The 17-year-old remains in fourth with one run remaining.

9:07pm ET: Team USA’s Brita Sigourney, who claimed bronze in this event in 2018, has a decent run, but bobbles on two landings. The 32-year-old American, who is competing at her third Olympics in Beijing, isn’t able to improve upon her first run score.

9:15pm ET: Canada’s Cassie Sharpe with a big 1080 in the middle of her run! Wow. What a technical performance. She improves on her first run score, but only by one point. (89.00 to 90.00). Sharpe remains in silver-medal position behind Gu.

9:22pm ET: Estonia’s Kelly Sildaru improves with a strong second run, but is still off the podium in fourth.

9:25pm ET: Wow. Eileen Gu. In her first two events in Beijing, she came from behind to finish on the podium. In big air, she was in bronze-medal position heading into the final run – and then landed a massive double cork 1620 for the first time in her career to win gold. In slopestyle, she moved from seventh to silver in her final run. But heading into the third run of the women’s halfpipe final, it seems very unlikely Gu will need to come from behind. A massive second run earns her 95.25 points, increasing her lead over the field. That said, with a best-run-counts format, it is still anyone’s game.

Video of Eileen Gu’s second run in women’s freeski halfpipe at the 2022 Winter Olympics:

9:27pm ET: Here are the top five with one run remaining:

  1. Eileen Gu (CHN) – 95.25
  2. Cassie Sharpe (CAN) – 90.00
  3. Rachael Karker (CAN) – 87.75
  4. Kelly Sildaru (EST) – 87.00
  5. Li Fanghui (CHN) – 86.50

9:35pm ET: Time for run #3… Team USA’s Carly Margulies with her best run of of the final, but will still finish well off the podium. Still, what a remarkable journey for Margulies, who had seven knee surgeries to get here. The 2022 Winter Olympics actually marked her first competition in TWO YEARS. Wild.

9:40pm ET: And with falls from both Hannah Faulhaber and Brita Sigourney, the U.S. won’t finish on the podium today.

9:45pm ET: Cassie Sharpe has improved on every run today – but it won’t be enough to defend her Olympic gold in freeski halfpipe. Sharpe still seems pumped about her performance, and she should be given the injuries she overcame just to compete in Beijing. Sharpe didn’t compete for most of 2021 after suffering a torn ACL at the 2021 X Games on her final halfpipe run (though she still won silver in that competition). She made her return to competition in December, just in time for the Olympics. Sharpe is also not the only member of her family in Beijing; her brother Darcy – who competes in snowboarding, not freeskiing – made his Olympic debut earlier this month, finishing 12th in big air and 23rd in slopestyle.

9:53pm ET: Tough day for Zoe Atkin, who competes for Great Britain but lives in Park City, Utah. The 19-year-old freeskier wasn’t able to put a run together until her third and final attempt, but she’ll finish off the podium.

9:56pm ET: Estonia’s Kelly Sildaru, in fourth heading into the run, puts down a solid run, but isn’t able to break onto the podium.

9:57pm ET: Guaranteed at least a bronze, Canada’s Rachael Karker takes her final run, but it is far from her best of the day.

9:59pm ET: Victory lap for Eileen Gu. With a gold medal secured, the 18-year-old has fun on her final run (video below). She becomes the first freestyle skier to win three medals at a single Winter Olympics. Even more impressive? She is the first freeskier – or snowboarder – to win a medal in both halfpipe AND big air or slopestyle. Not just at the same Olympics, but ever. Given how different halfpipe is from the other two events, its a real testament to Gu’s versatility.

11:00pm ET: “It has been two straight weeks of the most intense highs and lows I’ve ever experienced in my life,” Eileen Gu said of her experience in Beijing. “The second I landed the last 16 in big air I knew my life was never going to be the same.” Asked about her fun victory lap, Gu said, “I was literally this close to doing a cork 10…. But Zhang Kexin fell right before me on the right 10 and it kinda woke me up. I’ve never taken a victory lap before in my entire life, so I felt like, ‘You know what, last event at the Olympics it feels like I finally deserve it’. I’m really happy.”

Final Standings – Women’s Freeski Halfpipe at the 2022 Winter Olympics:

  1. Eileen Gu (CHN)
  2. Cassie Sharpe (CAN)
  3. Rachael Karker (CAN)
  4. Kelly Sildaru (EST)
  5. Li Fanghui (CHN)
  6. Hanna Faulhaber (USA)
  7. Zhang Kexin (CHN)
  8. Amy Fraser (CAN)
  9. Zoe Atkin (GBR)
  10. Brita Sigourney (USA)
  11. Carly Margulies (USA)
  12. Sabrina Cakmakli (GER)

Women’s Freeskiing Halfpipe Final – Start List:

1 – GER – Sabrina CAKMAKLI
2 – CAN – Amy FRASER
6 – CHN – LI Fanghui
7 – CAN – Cassie SHARPE
8 – CHN – ZHANG Kexin
9 – GBR – Zoe ATKIN
10 – EST – Kelly SILDARU
11 – CAN – Rachael KARKER
12 – CHN – Eileen Ailing GU

Freeski Halfpipe – Competition Format for the 2022 Winter Olympics:

The final will include the top 12 athletes from qualification. Athletes start in reverse order of their score from qualification (the top-ranked athlete goes last).

During the final, each athlete takes three runs. The best score of the three counts towards the final standings.

How is it judged?

Athletes are judged based on five criteria: execution, difficulty, amplitude, variety, and progression. Judges score each run on a scale from 0-100.

Halfpipe Details – 2022 Winter Olympics:

  • Course Name: Secret Garden Olympic Halfpipe
  • Halfpipe Length: 220 meters
  • Halfpipe Width: 22 meters
  • Inner Height of Walls: 7.2 meters

The NBC Olympics research team contributed to this report. 

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC