Zhangjiakou, China – Eleven free-ski finalists took turns trying to sail the downhill course, which has proven to be a formidable enemy during this Winter Games.
The series of bars and obstacles followed by three sets of big jumps, all built on the ice in a way that evokes the Great Wall of China, has wowed and astounded some of the best skiers and snowboarders.
But on another freezing, cold, clear day in Genting Snow Park, Switzerland’s Mathilde Grimaud outperformed others, including Eileen Gu, who was hoping to give China another gold medal.
Grimo scored 86.56 in the second of her three rounds, beating Joe who came in second, and Kelly Seldaro of Estonia who took the bronze.
Gu has another event to try to win a second gold medal. Her last event, Halfpipe, is scheduled for Thursday. Gu is the favorite to win.
The event’s three nominees – Celdaro and Tess Lidio of France and Gou – advanced into the first round in that order. But Gremaud opened the second round of three runs with a score of 86.56, increasing his bet on the candidates.
By the time Gu occupied the second round, she had already withdrawn from the competition for the medal. And when she fell backwards off the third rail, she let go of all her medal hopes in her last run. She scored 86.23, bumping it up to finish second.
There were supposed to be 12 finalists in the slant swimming, but Mariner Hamill of the United States did not compete after sustaining a leg injury in the second qualifying round the day before. She was taken off the course in an ambulance, and the team said she would be going home for an evaluation.
That put America’s hopes on Hamill’s classmate, Maggie Voisin. Voisin, a veteran of the Freeski World Circuit but still only 23 years old, made her third Olympic appearance. In 2014, at the age of 15, she was at the Sochi Games but broke her leg in pre-competition exercises. In the 2018 games, she took 4th place. She arrived in China hungry for a medal but placed fifth.
Most of the competition focus was on Joe, who is 18 years old Born and raised in California to a Chinese mother with deep roots in Beijing. She spent two years with the US national team before announcing, in 2019, that she would compete with China, in part to help build the country’s winter sports market.
Gu is a budding star and ubiquitous presence on Chinese television during these Olympics. Her face, known as Gu Ailing, looks everywhere, including the sky (Latest photoshow of her using more than 500 drones) and in advertisements for many Chinese sponsors. In the past year, it has also become a model for Tiffany & Company, Louis Vuitton, and other premium retailers.
Her mother, Yan Gu, has credentials — most Americans haven’t been able to bring family and friends to China due to pandemic-era restrictions — and she’s attending events cheering her daughter on.
Having landed a tough and stressful qualifying run in slash style on Monday, Joe confidently stood at the bottom of the track, waiting for the result she knew would lead her to the final. She pulled a type of Chinese flatbread from her pocket and nibbled on it. Within minutes, she and Shao Bing had become a popular hashtag on Chinese social media.
In the past month or so, and mostly in the past week since her big win, the number of Instagram strong The number of followers – mostly in the West and rarely seen in China – has doubled, to 1.1 million. She has so much more Followers on Weibo, which is a Chinese site similar to Twitter, where you post more posts. On Tuesday morning, her account was close to five million followers, nearly five times what it was at the start of the year.
Its decision to compete with China raised questions there and in the United States. China does not allow dual citizenship, and Gu has evaded questions about whether she has turned in her US passport. Online critics have pointed out in recent days that her use of sites banned in China suggests she is far from connected to it With the struggle of millions of Chinese facing censorship.
But during her Olympic events, she shone, and was warmly embraced by China. Most of those who braved sub-zero temperatures on Tuesday were rooting for her, waving small flags and clapping enthusiastically whenever she sang. Cameras and heads were constantly pointing at her. The uproar followed her around the slope.
A love affair will only deepen with another medal – especially the gold one.
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