木制吊环

Gu wins China's first women's Superpipe gold at Winter X-Games

Release time:2021-01-31 Publisher:South Asia Development

Eileen Gu, also known by her Chinese name, Gu Ailing, burst onto the professional circuit on Friday by winning the women's ski Superpipe gold, the first-ever by a Chinese athlete at the Winter X-Games.

The annual games, held in Aspen's Buttermilk Mountain in Colorado since 2002, is a competition compiled of the greatest winter action sports athletes from around the world. It has day and evening events including skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling.

Gu, 17, born in California and now competing for China, also became the first rookie to win gold in the Superpipe competition. She also won bronze earlier that day in the Big Air competition. But Friday, she was all business, focusing on her slopestyle final on Saturday.

"I'm a very competitive person and it's not over until it's over," Gu told the media, reserving comments on her gold medal performance. "I'm here for three events, and I'm going to put my all into my three events."

Gu's competitive style and dedication to her sport were revealed last year when she graduated from high school early for a gap year to train before starting at Stanford University in fall 2022.

With a Chinese mother and American father, Gu was born and raised in San Francisco and has her eyes set on the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. She announced in June 2019 she would compete for China in Beijing 2022.

"With 900s in both directions, a lofty switch 720 and an average amplitude on her best run of 11-feet 3-inches, Gu bested two-time Women's Ski SuperPipe gold medalist Cassie Sharpe, who took silver, and defending silver-medalist Rachael Karker, who took bronze," ESPN announced.

Gu led the competition from the start - that included four runs - but was aided in victory when 2020 gold medalist Kelly Sildaru withdrew after injuring her left knee in a practice run for Big Air just hours earlier.

"I went huge on my third run and I remember in the middle of my rodeo while I was upside down, I was like 'I think I just won X Games,' while I was in the air," Gu said, adding, "because I have never skied that well in my entire life."

The winter "Extreme Games," later shorted to "X Games" for the sake of translation and branding, officially launched in 1997. This annual event gained unique influence, somehow affecting the competition mode of the Winter Olympic Games, due to their big name sponsors, top-tier athletes, and consistent fan attendance.

However, it was changed a lot by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Buttermilk looks like a ghost town," local skier Brent Haynes told Xinhua Saturday, referring to the tight COVID-19 restrictions implemented for the 2021 X-Games.

There were no spectators, no motorsports, no concerts, no booths filled with "swag," the memorabilia coveted by attendees, and the usual four-day event was trimmed to three-days.

For 20 straight years, ESPN's winter extravaganza has been held at Buttermilk Ski Area outside of Aspen, but the usual 120,000 fans who attend the event were absent.

Instead, tight security and warning signs greeted local skiers who visited the venue hoping for a peek of the Olympic-bound stars.

In anticipation of the slim fan pickings in 2021, ESPN showcased an elaborate Virtual X Fest online site appealing to the young ski enthusiast.

Wisconsin-based experiential marketing agency GMR began working on Virtual X Fest in November, when ESPN went ahead with the 2021 X-Games again, to the excitement of competitors, but with fans seemingly left out in the cold.

But now, X-Games fans can use an avatar to find X Games merchandise areas, and even a place to take a selfie and tag it with X Games-related stickers.

In addition, the innovative marketing approach includes a bulletin board where fans can click and find updated information on the latest X Games news, posters from the past two decades of X, and a number of hidden features.

X Games producers say if they can attract "even 10 percent," of normal fan interaction at the games with the virtual offering, "it's a win."