Eileen Gu: Teen Olympic sensation wins gold and crashes Weibo

Gu, 18, born in the United States, took the lead in women’s big air competition with her third race, scoring 94.5 with a 1620 and a perfect landing – making his total score of 188.25 on the event’s debut at Winter Olympics.

She narrowly beat Frenchwoman Tess Ledeux, who won silver with a score of 187.50. Switzerland’s Mathilde Gremaud won bronze.

“It was the best time of my life. The happiest time, day, whatever – of my life. I just can’t believe what just happened,” Gu said after his victory, according to the Olympic site.

“Even if I didn’t land it, I felt it would send a message to the world and hopefully encourage more girls to break their own boundaries,” she added. “That was my biggest goal before my last race. I reminded myself to have fun and enjoy the moment and that no matter what, I was so grateful to even have this opportunity to be here. .”

Fans filled the stands to cheer on Gu, who was born and raised in California but decided in 2019 to compete for China. Known as the “snow princess” in China, Gu, already the reigning world champion, has become the unofficial face of China’s Olympic ambitionsand saw its popularity skyrocket as the Games approached.

Ledeux, who had led the competition until the final heat when she lost her balance on landing, collapsed to the ground in tears after the final result. Both Gu and Gremaud knelt on the snowy ground to console her, hugging Ledeux and rubbing his back.

Gu’s win sparked happy scenes online. The topic dominated searches on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo, where seven of the top 10 trending topics were all about Gu’s victory. Fans on her Weibo, where she has 2.6 million subscribers, left more than 90,000 comments in less than 30 minutes after her victory.

Related hashtags, such as “Gu Ailing won the gold medal”, received over 300 million views within an hour, which eventually crashed the entire Weibo site due to the massive number of users. .

Chinese authorities were also exceptionally quick to congratulate Gu. “We are happy to learn that Gu Ailing, an athlete from Beijing, won a precious gold medal for the Chinese sports delegation and was honored for the country with her perfect performance in the women’s platform final. freestyle skiing at the Beijing Winter Olympics,” said the Beijing municipal government and the Beijing Committee of the Communist Party of China (CCP), referring to Gu by his Chinese name.

Gu, who has an American father and a Chinese mother, grew up skiing the slopes of Lake Tahoe and had reached his first World Cup podium at age 15.

Although she moved on to compete for China, it is unclear whether she renounced her US citizenship – usually a requirement for Chinese naturalization, since the country does not allow dual citizenship. Gu has never publicly commented on his US citizenship status, although an article about the official olympic website mentioned his “dual nationality” in January.

At a press conference after her victory on Tuesday, reporters repeatedly asked Gu if she was still an American citizen. She avoided responding each time, saying only that she felt American in the United States and Chinese in China.

Since joining the Chinese national team, Gu’s face has been splashed on magazine covers and billboards in the country. She’s landed numerous endorsements and brand deals, and is fast becoming one of China’s hottest young stars – although her newfound success has also come under scrutiny from Western critics.

Besides her skiing career, she is also a model, brand ambassador and has been accepted to Stanford University, which she plans to attend in the fall.

CNN’s Helen Regan contributed to this report.

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