Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.
In the annals of Olympic multi-tasking, Eileen Gu will go down in history as the first freeskier to win three Olympic medals in three different disciplines. And she didn’t even have to throw a 1080 in her last event.
On Friday in the halfpipe, Gu clinched her second victory of the Games with huge back-to-back corked 900s in opposite directions on her second run, followed by a 720, switch 360, and a pair of Alley-Oop front-side 540s with different grabs to score 95.25 points.
When no one could out-score her best run, the 18-year-old Gu scrapped her tricks and threw a series of straight airs off the 22-foot walls for a victory lap.
It wasn’t the plan, Gu admitted. “My third run, I was literally this close to doing a cork 10, doing a full run. But Zhang Kexin [of China] fell right before me on the right 10 and it kinda woke me up. I’ve never taken a victory lap before in my entire life, so I felt like, ‘You know what, last event at the Olympics it feels like I finally deserve it’. I’m really happy.”
To claim gold, Gu dethroned Cassie Sharpe, the 2018 Olympic gold medalist in halfpipe. Sharpe landed two 1080s on Friday to place second, but the Canadian wasn’t surprised with the silver. “Eileen is a machine,” she said. “She’s been on fire all year. She’s competing in three disciplines, podiumed in all three of them. She’s 18, which is psychotic. I am not disappointed at all.”
Rachael Karker of Canada took the bronze.
All told, Beijing marked an extraordinary showing for the American-born Gu who has been competing for her mother’s country since 2019. With zero days off in two weeks between the Opening Ceremony and the final event of her Olympic debut, the 18-year-old won gold in the Halfpipe, gold in Big Air, and silver in Slopestyle for the host nation’s 1.3 billion people.
In truth, Gu has been tripling up on medals since the 2020 Youth Olympic Games where she took two golds and a silver, and the 2021 World Championships where she won two golds and a bronze. In China, the only thing that stood between Gu and a clean sweep of three Olympic gold medals was 0.33 points in Slopestyle, which she lost to Switzerland’s Mathilde Gremaud.
“It has been two straight weeks of the most intense highs and lows I’ve ever experienced in my life,” Gu said. “It has changed my life forever. The second I landed the last 16 in Big Air I knew my life was never going to be the same. Even then, I would have never imagined that I’d walk away with another silver and another gold.”
“I [was] skiing and competing every single day … the only person who’s made finals in all three events. It’s definitely not easy, but I ran a half-marathon every week over the summer to build up my endurance base. This is what I’ve been preparing for.”
Meanwhile, Friday also marked an impressive Olympic debut for 17-year-old Hanna Faulhaber of Aspen who had a chance to improve upon her sixth-place score but crashed on her third trick of her final run, a switch 720, and lost a ski. Even so, Faulhaber led the U.S. team in the Halfpipe, ahead of the 2018 Olympic bronze medalist and three-time Olympian Brita Sigourney who placed 10th, Carly Margulies in 11th, and Devin Logan in 13th.
Logan, like Gu, also had a history of competing in multiple Olympic events. After capturing the silver medal in Slopestyle at the 2014 Sochi Games, Logan returned for the 2018 Games where she competed in both Slopestyle and Halfpipe, then decided to focus only on the latter for Beijing.
After Logan missed qualifying for the final in her lone event in Beijing (by one spot), she said, “Of course, I wanted to showcase my skiing in the final. Unfortunately, today wasn’t my day, but it’s still my birthday so I’m still stoked.
In her next breath, the 29-year-old Logan confirmed that Beijing was her final Olympics. “I haven’t made the decision if it’s my last competition, though,” she said. “I’ve been at this level for 10 years, which is crazy, and still one of the best of the best, so I can’t rule it out yet. Next year I’m going to be finishing up my communications degree at Westminster which I’m excited about. I’ve been going to school for 12 years.
“Having Brita here [at 32] lets me know that I can keep going and keep pushing it,” Logan said, but “competing in both Halfpipe and Slopestyle, with injury, age, my body hurts. I’m on Aleve right now. My shoulder’s taped up. It’s kinda like what Shaun White is [feeling]. You see the next generation pushing and you’re like, ‘I’ve left my mark and it’s going to be OK.’”