One gold medal down, two to go for Eileen Gu. The US-born athlete from China nabbed victory in big air, her first Olympic event, on Tuesday, after pulling off her first ever 1620 with a perfect landing. That earned her a 94.5 score on her third and final run, bringing her total event score to 188.25. It was just enough to beat Tess Ledeux of France, who had been in the lead and finished less than a point behind at 187.50. Switzerland's Mathilde Gremaud took bronze with a score of 182.50. "That was the best moment of my life. The happiest moment, day, whatever—of my life. I just cannot believe what just happened," said Gu, who competed as Gu Ailing, according to the Olympic website.
"That was a trick I have never done before, had never attempted before," she added. "Yes, I’ve thought about it a lot, but to put it down on my third run in the first Olympic freeski final in history means the world to me … Even if I didn't land it, I felt it would send a message out to the world and hopefully encourage more girls to break their own boundaries." Chinese fans were certainly taken with the "snow princess." Praise for the athlete temporarily overloaded social network Weibo's servers, reports the AP. Seven of the top 10 trending topics on the platform were about the 18-year-old's victory and one "received more than 300 million views within an hour," reports CNN.
There was a marked difference to the treatment of another California-born Olympian competing for China. Weibo users heavily criticized 19-year-old figure skater Zhu Yi on Monday after she fell twice during the women's free skate event in the team competition, following a previous fall in the short program, per Fox News. "How shameful," read one comment liked more than 45,000 times, per the AP. "Go back to America," read another. Beijing's Chinese Communist Party officials praised Gu upon her victory, saying she "honored for the country with her perfect performance," per CNN. She remains the favorite in her two remaining events: halfpipe and slopestyle freestyle skiing. (Read more 2022 Beijing Olympics stories.)