COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colo. (AP)Eileen Gu won the halfpipe event and finished second in slopestyle at the Dew Tour on Friday to make clear she’s the freestyle skier to beat at the Winter Games in Beijing.
Gu, who was born in San Francisco but will compete for her mother’s home country of China in less than two months, will try to win three gold medals in Beijing. She will be among the favorites in big air, slopestyle and halfpipe.
The 18-year-old kicked off her big day by winning the halfpipe with two impressive runs filled with plenty of height and technically difficult spins. Both of her scores on the first and second runs would have won the event. It made her third and final attempt nothing more than a victory stroll through the pipe.
She held off Estonia’s Kelly Sildaru, who figures to be one of Gu’s biggest challengers in Beijing. Hanna Faulhaber, who is from Colorado, took third to earn a valuable podium spot in her bid to make the U.S. Olympic team.
”Today was all about having fun, pushing myself, pushing the sport,” Gu said in an interview after her halfpipe win. ”Being just the tiniest part of that is always my biggest goal.”
After about a two-hour break in which she rested and ate some French toast, Gu was back on the slopestyle course. On a windy afternoon, she couldn’t match the winning tricks from Tess Ledeux of France. Norway’s Johanne Killi was third. Sildaru decided to withdraw. She’s been contending with a broken hand.
”Honestly, I was really struggling in slope today. The speed was pretty tough,” Gu said. ”So I’m really happy that I was able to pull through and perform under pressure. … It was still super fun.”
Gu has been turning in convincing performances the past two weeks. She took first in the U.S. Grand Prix halfpipe contest last Friday and won the big air contest in Steamboat two weeks ago.
NOTES: Colby Stevenson led an American sweep in the men’s ski slopestyle event. Alex Hall was second and Nick Goepper wound up third. ”It’s insane to have all three Americans on top,” said Stevenson, who used a strong final run to overtake Hall. ”It shows our team has been putting in work and we’re ready for what’s to come.”
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