Chinese American skiing star Eileen Gu has won her third medal in her maiden Olympics, following her impeccable performance at the freeski halfpipe final on Friday.
At just 18, Gu has already become one of the most accomplished freestyle skiers. She is the first athlete in the discipline to win three medals at a single winter Olympic Games. She’s also one of only five Chinese athletes who won two or more Olympic golds in their careers.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Gu has attracted global attention since she switched from Team USA to compete for China. Critics have accused her of siding with Chinese authoritarianism by defending the Great Firewall and calling tennis star Peng Shuai, who has been put under blanket censorship after accusing a former leader of sexual assault, “happy and healthy.”
But her sporting talent and skill at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics were undeniable, landing on the podium for every event she participated in.
She grabbed her first gold in the big air event last week, before winning a sliver in women’s freeski slopestyle on Tuesday, finishing just 0.3 points gold medalist Mathilde Gremaud from Switzerland.
At the freeski halfpipe final on Friday morning, Gu maintained a comfortable lead throughout the three rounds, as she soared above the pipe higher than any other contestant to perform her maneuvers. Her performance was so dominant that she secured gold after the first two runs, and used her last slide down the halfpipe as a victory lap in front of an exuberant home crowd.
“I’m so, so happy. I broke many records today,” she told state broadcaster CCTV. “I’m not only the first skier to win three medals at a single Olympics, I’m also the youngest female skier to win a gold medal. I’m the only Chinese athlete to win any medal in freestyle skiing.”
“I’m very proud of representing China, because I think this is something that makes history and breaks limits,” Gu said. “My biggest dream is to see more young people, especially girls, get into winter sports.”
Addressing the controversies, she said had been through emotional highs and lows in the past few weeks, and thanked her supporters.
“And for the people who don’t support me, I’ve actually genuinely made peace with it. I’ve dismissed it,” she said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “My motto is now if they don’t think I’m doing good in the world, then they can go do better.”
Gu’s third medal again prompted a wave of joy and pride on the Chinese internet, where she is affectionately hailed as “princess.”
“Welcome to the Gu Ailing era,” said a top-voted comment under a state media post announcing Gu’s victory on the microblogging site Weibo, addressing the star with her Chinese name. “Her absolute strength leads to dominance.”
Many fans are already looking forward to her performance in Italy in 2026, where the next Winter Olympics will take place.
With eight golds, Team China is having its best Winter Olympics ever. The success has come in part from athletes like Gu and snowboarding gold medalist Su Yiming, who were trained outside of the Chinese state-run sports program responsible for grooming a majority of China’s Olympians.