Gu wins the 3rd Olympic gold medal for skiing for joy -- a halfpipe silver
ZHANGJIAKOU (China) -- On a sunny and windy day at the Beijing Olympics, pure joy on the halfpipe was like this:
Eileen Gu, a multinational freeskiing sensation, was the one who learned her gold medal. She then fell to her knees at top of halfpipe and covered her mouth with her mittens, screaming, "Oh my God!"
It was the 18-year old star doing straight airs down the pipe. She was laughing as she pushed her poles and fists downwards, enjoying every second of the victory run.
Gu was wearing a furry panada hat while she climbed the podium. She smiled wide and laughed as she accepted her third Bing Dwen Dwen Olympic mascot -- one for every medal she has won.
Gu stated that she was emotional as she rode down the pipe on Friday. "Because I felt like, for the first time, it really deserved it and I really earned it." Gu said that she felt like it was the first time she deserved it. She also felt a sense of relief as she mingled at the bottom with her competitors, coaches, and media. Gu's two-week adventure in China featured 16 runs down slopestyle, big air and halfpipe courses as well as countless practice runs on the same icy surfaces.
Gu became the first athlete from action sports to win three medals at one Olympics by winning gold in a state of the art contest against Cassie Sharpe. One was silver and two were gold.
Carly Margulies, an American freeskier, said that "She has basically set the level that's pretty impossible for many of us." She placed 11th.
Gu's trip was more than just about sports. She made a bold decision to wear the colors of China, her mother's country, instead of the ones she wore in her native United States, 30 months ago.
That move earned her both love and haters. She repeated it over and over: She did it in order to inspire girls from China. When she was younger, there was very little in the way that winter-sports culture was available. It is certainly more today.
Gu stated, "We are not here to set limits for a country. We're here to set a human limit."
All her good intentions aside, Gu's trip to the Olympics was destined to be measured by how she performed on the slopes. Gu did her best, despite all the pressure and with the whole world watching, She won her second halfpipe win and is undefeated for the season.
Sharpe stated, "She's an machine."
Gu won the contest on her first run, despite winds gusting from left to right at 3 degrees F (minus 16 degrees C) day. She did a pair of 900-degree spins, one in each direction, and then she went for two back-to-back flat "alley-oop" spins. In these, she begins her spin by twirling up the halfpipe, even though she is going downhill. Both jumps were landed without a bobble.
Misra Tornianen was her coach and she was even more impressed by Gu's 13-foot, 9-inch leap above the halfpipe in her first hit.
Tornianen stated, "It's incredible, all she has accomplished without resting and dealing with the pressure, just delivering every single day."
Gu's win was not in doubt, but it did not diminish the overall quality and excitement of the contest.
Sharpe broke her left knee last year at the Winter X Games. Sharpe landed two 1080 degree spins on Friday for the second time in her professional career.
Rachael Karker and her teammate Rachael Burke were the two-time medalists in halfpipe skiing. Sarah Burke, Canada's greatest freeskier, was the one who made it possible for halfpipe skiing to be included in the Olympics.
In a twist that feels more than just a coincidence, Burke, the original star of the sport, and Gu, its newest, share the same birthday: September 3.
Gu talked about creating a wallet from duct tape to support a sixth grade art project in an interview last year. She wrote "Celebrate Sarah" across the front as a tribute for the pioneer who died in a 2012 training accident.
Gu stated that even though I am terrible at art, Gu could still express himself to the best of his ability.
Gu is a magazine cover girl who scored 1580 on the SAT, and will be attending Stanford next. She saves her best artwork for the snow. She has been a part of the debate over the best Olympic performances.
The versatile teenager, who is also an action sport enthusiast, has the same conversation as Shaun White, a snowboarder whose victory under pressure four years ago was all-timer. It earned Shaun White a third gold medal in 12 years.
With her friend Chloe Kim who has dominated her sport over a decade, and who left China with her second gold medal in snowboarding in just two attempts.
It was fitting that Gu's final freeski trifecta took place in the same halfpipe as Kim won and White said goodbye to the Olympics the previous week.
Halfpipe is the most popular place in the action park where Olympic athletes are born.
Gu was about to descend the hill for the first time since her last event. She placed her hands on her hips, closed her eyes and repeated one sentence three more times.
She told reporters, as she was overcome with tears, that she had said "My name is Eileen Gu" and that "I'm the best halfpipe skier anywhere in the world."
After the pep talk, she took off her goggles and raced down the hill to prove that she was still a champion.