Ailing (Eileen) Gu, the San Francisco-born free-skier who chose to represent China at the Beijing Winter Olympics, claimed the gold medal in the women’s free-ski big air on Tuesday 8 February. She ended her performance with her first-ever left side double cork 1620, clutched in the third run at the final. This trick requiring four-and-half rotations, which scored 94.50 for Gu, helped her move to first place and secured the gold in a thrilling end to the free-skiing event.
Despite sitting in third place in the semi-final, Gu stomped a double cork 1440 in the opening run of the final, ranking first with a score of 93.75. But she was soon pushed down to the second after Tess Ledeux, her French counterpart, completed a double cork 1620 – at the time, the largest rotation ever in women’s free-ski. The 18-year-old then dropped into the third run following a double cork 1080 in the second and pulled off the trick that she had never tried before, allowing her to take home the gold and bring more national pride to China.
With the much-anticipated gold-medal collected, the domestic sensation of Gu has reached a new height. The hashtag of her claiming the gold medal garnered over 1.4 billion views on Weibo, and several other topics about the triumph dominated the hot search on the Chinese microblogging site, with more than 100 million participations. With the new wave of Olympic celebrities and the corporate move of using them in branding, any Chinese athlete wins on home soil through this event has far-reaching and commercial outcomes.
Born to an American father and a Chinese mother, who used to be a ski instructor, Gu showed her talent in snow sports at an early age, claiming over 50 first spots by the age of 14, including the American national championship. She was also included on Forbes China 30 Under 30 entertainment and sports list in 2020, becoming the youngest person to win such internationally renowned fame, once again signposting her value for brands to tap into.
Following her decision to compete for China at the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2019, the dubbed “Snow Princess” and supermodel became the youngest athlete representing China in the first Olympic big air freestyle skiing competition, gaining huge endorsement in China. This buzz was enormous, as she amassed more than 3.4 million fans on China’s biggest microblogging website Weibo as of now.
With the successful delivery of the first of the three promised golds for China, Gu is on her way to becoming a household name in the country. Such massive achievements have also made her a target for a growing option for a variety of brands, including global labels such as Estée Lauder, Tiffany, Louis Vuitton, and Victoria’s Secret.