Gu wins women's free ski halfpipe, her second gold for China at Beijing 2022
CHONGLI, Zhangjiakou -- Free ski talent Gu Ailing eased to top podium of her odds-on halfpipe at the Beijing 2022 here on Friday, which is her second gold medal for host China.
Gu, 18, grabbed her first gold in the big air event in her Olympic debut on Feb. 8 in Beijing, and won the silver in the slopestyle here on Feb. 15.
On winning three medals at Beijing 2022, Gu said, "It has been two straight weeks of the most intense highs and lows I've ever experienced in my life. It has changed my life forever."
"I'm so honored to be here and I'm even more honored by this platform that I've been given to be able to spread this message and inspire young girls through my own passion for the sport and to be able to hopefully spread the sport to people that might not have heard of it before," she added.
Chinese athlete Gu Ailing celebrates after the freestyle skiing women's freeski halfpipe final of Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou, North China's Hebei province, Feb 18, 2022. [Photo by Wei Xiaohao/chinadaily.com.cn]
Best at halfpipe in the three events she attended, Gu scored 93.25 points in her first run to lead the 12-strong final standings, collected 95.25 points in her second run to extend the lead and sealed the win before her third run.
Gu was the last competitor came out in every run in the final as she topped the qualification with 95.50 on Thursday. Before her third run on Friday, all the other finalists could not surpass her definitely. Then Gu made an easy run to celebrate her triumph.
On how she outdid herself in her second run, Gu said, "It was pretty windy today, I was struggling during practice especially with speed and so in my first run it just felt so good to put it down and to be able to have a score.
"In my second run I wanted to step it up. Cassie with a 1080 inspired me so I wanted to put the right alley-oop 5 in.
"Skiing is all about fun and individuality and being able to express yourself and find that flow, and for myself I really find that in halfpipe.
"Being able to feel the rhythm of the walls, and being able to put unique grabs, to try different axis, spin different directions -- it's really fun and it's the essence of the sport."
In the three-run final, Canadian skier Cassie Sharpe, the PyeongChang 2018 champion, took the silver with her stable performances. Her best score was 90.75 in her third run and the worst was 89.00 in her first run.
Sharpe, also the Halfpipe Crystal Globe winner for 2018 and 2019, said, "It feels surreal at this point. I can't even put it into words, I've been through hell and back the last year, so I'm just so grateful that all the pieces that I've worked so hard on came together today."
"I'm going to get married, have a baby, get a dog, do all the life things," the 29-year-old added.
The bronze went to the 24-year-old Rachael Karker, also a Canadian, with her first-run score of 87.75.
KarKer had won the halfpipe silver in the 2021 World Championships in Aspen, 1.25 points behind the champion Gu.
"I'm very happy, I was hoping to come out with a medal and I just hoped I'd make Canada proud and happy to be here," Karker said.
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