Eileen Gu brought the home fans to their feet with her first run (a huge double cork 1440). And she kept them there all the way through to her third when she sealed a historic top-of-the-podium finish in style.
“That was the best moment of my life. The happiest moment, day, whatever — of my life. I just cannot believe what just happened," said Eileen Gu after winning her gold medal. "
Eileen Gu, going first, pulled off a massive 1620 with a perfect landing to move just barely into first place with a combined score of 188.25. Gremaud came down on her back going big and was unable to overtake the 18-year-old USA-born phenom who’s fast become the darling of the host nation -- and a three-discipline gold-medal contender (big air, slopestyle, and halfpipe).
"That was a trick I have never done before, had never attempted before. Yes, I’ve thought about it a lot, but to put it down on my third run in the first Olympic Freeski final in history means the world to me," Eileen Gu added.
"Even if I didn’t land it, I felt it would send a message out to the world and hopefully encourage more girls to break their boundaries," Gu went on. "That was my biggest goal going into my last run. I reminded myself to have fun and enjoy the moment and that, no matter what, I was so grateful to even have this opportunity to even be here."
Tess Ledeux, who wowed the crowd all night with an array of elegant and high-flying tricks, went big in the final run of the event in hopes of turning the result her way. But a rough landing saw her fail to beat Gu for gold and the French star, competing in her second Olympics, finished with a combined score of 187.50 and the silver medal
"It was emotional," Tess Ledeux said of losing out on gold by such a thin margin. "When you lose the first place and the Olympic championship by 0.75 points, at this moment it feels a little bad. But I recall all my accomplishments of this past year and I am very happy for this dream because I am still at the Olympic Games."
"I skied my best today," she added. "I could not have done better."
The bronze medal went to Mathilde Gremaud with a score of 182.50.
"It was insane. I gave it all I had and I'm so happy to have come away with a medal," she said after skiing beautifully and bravely on her 22nd birthday. "It's the best present for sure."