Freeski: teenage triple threats take over
In freeskiing, it is rare to find âtriple threatsâ – athletes who excel in all three disciplines (halfpipe, slopestyle, big air) – but a pair of 19-year-olds. Kelly sildaru and 18 years old Eileen Gu, have resumed women’s competitions by doing just that.
Estonian Sildaru, who exploded onto the slopestyle scene at the age of 13, was slated to be a star at the 2018 Winter Games, but an ACL tear kept her from competing at PyeongChang. After recovering from this injury, Sildaru quickly returned to her winning ways and established herself as a threat not only in slopestyle, but also in halfpipe and big air, as she won three medals. gold, one silver and one bronze at the Winter X Games in 2019 and 2020.
Gu made his X Games debut in 2021 – a year since Sildaru was absent due to injury – and had a real breakout performance winning gold in the halfpipe and slopestyle, as well as bronze in big air. Although she was born in San Francisco and raised in the United States, Gu became a naturalized Chinese citizen in 2019 and is now competing for her mother’s home country. She could become one of the host country’s biggest stars in Beijing 2022.
Both skiers also won gold medals at the Youth Olympic Games in 2020 – Sildaru in slopestyle, Gu in halfpipe and big air – and they can now compete in several events for Olympic winter gold.
China’s Eileen Gu (center) won gold in freeskiing halfpipe at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games – one of three medals in total she won at those Games.
USA TODAY Sports