Live Olympics updates: Canada takes lead against USA in women’s hockey

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

BEIJING — Eileen Gu needed the best jump of her life to win a gold medal. The 18-year-old Californian had come to her mother’s home country, hoping to win three events at the Winter Olympics while representing China.

Under the glare of bright sunshine and the eyes of the international media, Gu stood on top of the huge modern air jump, located in an industrial park amid concrete cooling towers. She was in third place with one jump to go.

His mother called. Yan Gu, who grew up in Beijing, was at the bottom of the jump, trying to give his daughter advice.

Do the 1440 again, she told him, referring to a four-rotation trick that Gu had already pulled off almost perfectly. Maybe that elevates you to a silver medal. Gu had other ideas.

“Mom, executive call here,” she remembers saying. “Veto. I’ll do the 16th, and you’ll take care of it.

Gu landed the round, officially a Left Double 1620 with a safety hold, and earned enough points to put her first. When France’s Tess Ledeux couldn’t tie the score, Gu had gold and Ledeux got silver. Switzerland’s Mathilde Gremaud won bronze.

As Gu awaited her results, Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, congratulated her upon arrival. When the numbers arrived, fans in the stands cheered Gu and waved small Chinese flags.

Born and raised in California but competing for China, Gu has drawn international attention – and some debate – for her decision in 2019 to represent her mother’s homeland.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The decision was barely noted as she was 15 and the Olympics was nearly three years away. Now Gu dominates his sport and finds himself straddling a growing geopolitical divide between his two countries.

Yan Gu, Eileen’s mother, was born in Shanghai and raised in Beijing, the daughter of a government engineer. She emigrated to the United States about 30 years ago for postgraduate studies and settled in San Francisco.

Eileen Gu, raised by her mother in an upscale San Francisco neighborhood, became a model, representing luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Company. She has so many sponsorships in China that she is ubiquitous in advertisements and receives rave coverage from state media.

Gu said she wanted to be a bridge between the United States and China while inspiring young women and helping China’s fledgling winter sports industry grow. She and her mother declined to discuss the thorny geopolitical issues that involve rival countries.

After winning the gold medal on Tuesday, Gu was asked at least six times if she still had US citizenship. China does not allow dual nationality. She ably spoke about the support she received from both countries, how Chinese she feels when she is in China and American when she is in the United States, and never answered the question.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

She spent two hours doing interviews after her win and outstripped anyone who might criticize her.

“No matter what I say, if people don’t have a good heart, they won’t believe me because they can’t sympathize with people who have a good heart,” she said. “So in that sense, I feel like it’s a lot easier to block out the hate now. And also, they’ll never know what it’s like to win an Olympic gold medal.

There were 12 freestyle skiers in the women’s big air final at Shougang Park, but the focus was almost entirely on Gu. The athletes each had three jumps, judged on a scale of 100 points. The top two scores were added together to determine the winner.

Gu opened with a “straight 1440 double safety”, scoring 93.75 and putting her in first place. His lead did not last long.

Ledeux landed a 1620 – an extra half rotation from what Gu did – to score 94.5. Gu and Ledeux traded big tricks in the second round, and Gu headed into her final jump needing at least 93 points to move from third to first.

It was then that Gu decided during the call with her mother that she would try to turn her bronze, already secure, into gold.

Her celebratory plan was to eat Ghirardelli chocolate (made in San Francisco), play the piano, write in her journal, and relax.

Practice for the slopestyle competition was scheduled for the following day. There were more medals and hearts to win, and maybe more questions to deal with.

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