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Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics: Part 1 - Skiing & Snowboarding

2022-02-17
Eileen Gu celebrates her silver medal in the women’s freestyle skiing slopestyle finals at the 2022 Winter Olympics. [Photo Credit: Jack Gruber, USA Today]
Eileen Gu celebrates her silver medal in the women’s freestyle skiing slopestyle finals at the 2022 Winter Olympics. [Photo Credit: Jack Gruber, USA Today]

The Winter Olympics have arrived in Beijing, the first city in the world to ever host both the Summer and Winter Olympics! Over the next few weeks, we will feature a three-part series highlighting notable Chinese and American Olympians from various events - first up is skiing and snowboarding!

Eileen Gu

Freestyle skier Eileen Gu wins the gold medal in the big air competition for China on February 8, 2022 [Photo Credit: CNN]

Eighteen-year-old freestyle skier Eileen Gu has exploded with popularity after winning China the gold medal in the big air ski competition on February 8th. Praise for Gu’s win temporarily shut down Weibo in China, as she occupied five of the top ten trending topics the day of her win.

There has been a whirlwind of media coverage around Gu, who is American-born but decided to compete for her mother’s home country of China. “Dad was Harvard, Mom was Peking University, Stanford, Grandmother was an athlete. She’s beautiful and classy,” said one Weibo user.

An Olympic gold medal is just one of many accomplishments for this up-and-coming star, who has been nicknamed “Snow Princess,” and “Frog Princess'', after the green helmet she wore during a competition. The athlete graduated early from San Francisco High School, reportedly scoring a near-perfect 1580 on her SAT Standardized test, and will be attending the prestigious Stanford University this upcoming fall. Gu is also a skilled piano player and a professional model that has been featured in campaigns for Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., and Swiss watchmaker IWC Schaffhausen, as well as dozens of other international ad campaigns.

Eileen Gu trains before her run in the Women's Big Air ski competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing [Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matt Slocum]

Leading up to the Olympics, Gu trained in Switzerland accompanied by her mom Yan Gu, a former ski instructor in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, USA. The first time her mother took her skiing, Eileen was three years old. Skiing first started as a fun weekend hobby, and it wasn’t until high school that Gu entered into the world of professional skiing and started as a slopestyle skier. Over time she began riding the halfpipe, and in 2019 at fifteen years old, she won a World Cup event in Italy in slopestyle, paving her way to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Following her gold in big air, Gu went on to win silver in the women’s freestyle slopestyle skiing competition and is preparing for the upcoming halfpipe competition later this week.

Chloe Kim

On Team USA, Chloe Kim broke a world record at the 2022 Winter Olympics by becoming the first woman to win two golds in the snowboard halfpipe. Kim also won the record for the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding gold medal in 2018 when she was just seventeen years old.

Chloe Kim celebrates her Gold medal-winning run during the Women’s Snowboard Halfpipe Final [Photo Credit: Getty Images]

Leading up to her gold medal winning run, Kim told reporters at NBC she had “one of the worst practices I’ve ever had, which does not put you in a good place mentally.” A bad practice run, coupled with a two year break from snowboarding after the 2018 Olympics, the longest break of her career, mounted the pressure she felt ahead of her Olympic run, but “I just reminded myself that this was a brand new run and I just have to land it now. And I’m so happy I was able to do that,” said Kim.

Kim is a second generation Korean-American who attributes her interest and success in snowboarding to her dad, who helped her get involved in the sport at a young age, and was also there for emotional support through challenges, practices, or competitions. She began snowboarding at only four years old in Mountain High, California, and by the age of six, she was a member of Team Mountain High. Kim competed in her first X Games competition at thirteen, where she won silver, and then went on to become the first athlete to win three gold medals before the age of 16 in X Games history.

Chloe Kim completes her first, and best run of the 2022 Winter Olympics [Photo Credit: Jeremy White]

Kim’s lead up to the 2022 Winter Olympics was not a typical Olympian story. Following the 2018 Winter Olympics, Kim almost gave up on snowboarding, decided to enroll in Princeton University with no plan to return to the sport. No longer having fun, and suffering from a broken ankle in 2019, Kim did not touch a snowboard for almost 22 months. She focused on being a college student and exploring other interests, such as horseback riding and caring for animals. When she did decide to return in January 2020, she went on to win gold in both the X Games and the World Championships, setting her up for the 2022 Olympics.

Both Eileen Gu and Chloe Kim are setting records for their respective sports and for their countries in this year’s Winter Olympics. Gu is accompanied by Chinese gold medalists in skiing including Qi Guangpu, Xu Mengtao and snowboarder Su Yiming, while Kim won gold alongside American skier Alexander Hall and snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis. 2022 also marked the retirement of legendary American snowboarder Shaun White, who placed fourth in this years halfpipe contest, after competing in his fifth Winter Olympics.

Click here to check out the Olympics medals won by China and the U.S. so far, and make sure to tune into the remaining competitions!

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