Winter Olympics: China’s Eileen Gu wins halfpipe final as GB’s Zoe Atkin ends ninth

hosts: Beijing, China date: 4-20 February
coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button and online; listen on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Sounds; live text and highlights on BBC Sport website and mobile app

Zoe Atkin fell on two of her three runs in the halfpipe final as China’s gold medalist Eileen Gu became the first freestyle skier to win Olympic medals in three different events.

Team GB’s Atkin, 19, qualified in fourth for the final but finished ninth after scoring 73.25 in her final run.

China’s 18-year-old ‘snow princess’ Gu won with 95.25 to add to her big air gold and slopestyle silver.

Defending champion Cassie Sharpe won silver, with Rachael Karker in third.

“I was really glad to make it to the finals on my Olympic debut,” said Atkin, whose older sister Izzy won Team GB’s first Olympic skiing medal with slopestyle bronze in 2018.

“I definitely wanted to land a good, clean run that was a bit bigger with some harder tricks but unfortunately I didn’t have the speed.”

Elsewhere on Friday, Switzerland took gold and silver in the men’s ski cross final, with Ryan Regez beating reigning world champion Alex Fiva into second, as Sergey Ridzik, of the Russian Olympic Committee, took bronze.

Team GB debutant Ollie Davies was knocked out in the last 32. In competing in the Beijing Games, he became the first British man to contest ski cross at an Olympics.

‘It has changed my life forever’ – Gu makes history… again

California-born Gu came into these Games as China’s poster girl, having announced she would compete for her mother’s country in 2019 with the hope of inspiring “millions of young people”. With a hat-trick of medals, she can consider it a job well done.

Expectations were high for Gu, a household name with large crowds following her every trick. At the 2020 Youth Olympics, she won three medals – again two golds and one silver – before becoming the first freestyle skier to win two golds at the World Championships the following year.

More history beckoned at her maiden Olympics, where she became the youngest gold medalist in freestyle skiing with her big air gold – doing so by landing a double cork 1620, a trick she had never tried before in competition.

She missed out on slopestyle gold by just 0.33 of a point, but dominated the halfpipe event, sealed gold before she dropped in for her final run, leaving her in tears at the top of the pipe.

“It has been two straight weeks of the most intense highs and lows I’ve ever experienced in my life,” Gu said.

“It has changed my life forever. The second I landed the last 16 in big air I knew my life was never going to be the same again.

“Even then I would have never imagined that I’d walk away with another silver and another gold.

“I’m so honored to be here and I’m even more honored by this platform that I’ve been given to be able to spread this message and inspire young girls through my own passion for the sport and to hopefully spread the sport to people that might not have heard of it before.”

Knowing she had the gold medal secured, Gu chose to enjoy her final run, entertaining the bulging crowd of volunteers and games staff – as well as those in the stands – as she soaked up their adoration.

“I’ve never taken a victory lap before. I’m always saying, ‘I want to push harder, I want to show that I can do more’,” she said.

“And today, it kind of just felt like this coming-together moment because it’s my last event at the Olympics.

“I put so much work into this, and to just feel like it was all worth it – all those little moments, the time I put in, in the gym after shooting a fashion editorial for eight to 10 hours, when I ran a half marathon every week over the summer, when I pushed myself to be the first person in practice and the last person to leave.

“Just all those little moments I feel like added up and it was just this great realization that it was all worth it and that it was all real.

“I was very emotional at the top and I chose to do a victory lap because I felt like for the first time I really deserved it, and I really earned it.”

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