American-born Eileen Gu of China cranked out the first 1620 of her career on her final jump, stunning Tess Ledeux of France and earning the first of what she hopes will be three gold medals at the Beijing Olympics in women's freestyle big air Tuesday.
Nicknamed the "Snow Princess," Gu is among the biggest local names in Beijing. She is a medal favorite in big air, slopestyle and halfpipe. Her first attempt at gold came down to the last round. Ledeux is the only other woman to ever land a 1620 — 4 1/2 spins — in competition, and she stomped one out with a slight wobble on the landing in Round 1.
Gu hinted after qualifying Monday that she might be able to match Ledeux. With everything on the line, she did. The 18-year-old from San Francisco shrieked when she landed the jump, then dropped to her knees when her score of 94.50 was announced.
Ledeux tried to improve on her second run in Round 3, coming into the jump backward for a switch 1440. She was shaky on the landing, though, clearing the way for Gu's gold. Gu has gotten heat from her birth country after turning down Team USA to compete for China at the Beijing Games.
Gu's mother is from China, and though she learned to ski in California, she says her goal is to be a role model for young girls in China who have not had many female athletes to admire. It's been a lucrative move for her, as well.
Her face is on advertisements across Beijing, and her modeling career is nearly as hot as her skiing talents, with appearances for Vogue, Victoria's Secret, Louis Vitton, Tiffany and more. Swiss skier Mathilde Gremaud took bronze.