Eileen Gu Wins Gold in Halfpipe – and Makes Olympic History

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Eileen Gu made winning her third medal of the 2022 Winter Games look easy on Friday morning, soaring so far ahead of the competition in the first run of the freeski halfpipe event that no one could catch up.

Her performance was also history-making: Gu is the first action-sports athlete to capture three medals at the same Winter Games.

Gu, who competes for China, pulled off a 93.25 in her first run, putting her the lead. She had an even stronger showing in her second run, starting with back-to-back 900s, earning her a 95.25—a score that had the free skier smiling and giggling when it came in. The 18-year went into her third run knowing she’d already won gold.

Canadians Cassie Sharpe and Rachael Karker took silver and bronze, respectively. “I’m so proud of you guys,” Gu told her fellow medallists at the finish. “We’re so proud of you,” they replied.

Freestyle Skiing - Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Day 14
Eileen Gu of Team China performs a trick on their third run during the Women's Freestyle Freeski Halfpipe Final on Day 14 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at Genting Snow Park on February 18, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.Al Bello—Getty Images

Gu, who was born in San Francisco to a Chinese mother and an American father, wore a hat with panda ears when she stepped onto the podium when the results were announced.

Also known by her Chinese name, Gu Ailing, she had already won gold in big air gold on Feb. 8 and silver in slopestyle on Feb. 15.

She isn’t just one of the best performing athletes of the Beijing Olympics, she’s also one of the most talked about. The skier, who was accepted into Stanford University and moonlights as a model for luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co., is so popular in China that chatter about her first gold medal temporarily crashed Chinese social media platform Weibo.

READ MORE: Free-Skier Eileen Gu Navigates the Road to the Winter Olympics in Beijing

But she’s also faced criticism from some in the U.S. for choosing to compete for China at an Olympics marked by a diplomatic boycott over China’s human rights abuses. She’s also sparked anger by telling people to follow her on Instagram, which is blocked in China.

Gu spent a few seasons competing for the U.S. at events, but in 2019 at the age of 15, she decided that she would switch national affiliation and compete for China in 2022.

Friday’s halfpipe was the final event for Gu at the Winter Olympics.

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Write to Amy Gunia at amy.gunia@time.com