Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland improved on her PyeongChang silver in slopestyle by winning gold in the event on Tuesday, adding to a previous bronze in big air to complete a career medal trifecta — and consequently ending Eileen Gu's attempt to win all three women's freeski titles at the 2022 Games.
The last of 12 qualifiers to advance to the final, Gremaud opened up competition by losing a ski on the first rail. The 2021 world runner-up then flew atop the leaderboard with a stellar Run 2, improving her score from a 1.10 to an 86.56 by hitting a switch-on 450-out on the course's Section 3 flat rail and throwing down a leftside double cork 1080, a rightside Rodeo 900 and a switch left 720 on the jumps. She again lost her skis on Run 3, attempting a switch double cork 1080 on the final jump.
"I barely made it to finals. But today it was a new day, I woke up with good energy, positivity. And I was excited to ski," she said. "I now have a complete set of the three medals … I've been inspired by so many athletes growing up. I'm hoping that I can be that for someone."
Last week, Gremaud earned big air bronze on her 22nd birthday. Her silver four years ago came just days after a concussion in training and about a week after turning 18 — at the time, making her the youngest women's freestyle skiing medalist.
San Francisco-born Gu, representing China, claimed silver with an 86.23 on Run 3, just 0.33 points behind Gremaud. The 18-year-old big air gold medalist produced an overall sound first run but botched the second rail. On Run 2, she tidied up that section only to be eaten up on her 630-off landing on the next.
Clean rails on Run 3 vaulted Gu to second place. The 2021 world and X Games champion improved nearly everything up top before throwing a switch left bio 900, a left double 1080 with two grabs and a right 900 Buick to lock up her second medal of the Games.
"My goal coming into this Olympics was to win one gold, and have one more podium in a different event, so I've already met that goal and I'm going into my strongest event," Gu said. "Feeling really good right now and super excited to see what the next couple of days bring."
Halfpipe's up next for Gu, who was unbeaten in the event this season. After Tuesday's slopestyle final, she said that her grandmother – who has yet to see Gu compete – was headed out to do just that when the pipe event gets underway. She also commented on the pressure.
"Out here I'm competing for myself. I'm the one who put in the work, I'm the one who put in the hours, blood, sweat, tears and all that," Gu said. "So yeah, I'm proud of myself. And I'm happy that everybody was here to witness it."
Four-time X Games champion Kelly Sildaru, a favorite coming in and Monday's top qualifier, earned bronze for Estonia's first-ever Winter Olympic medal outside cross-country skiing. The 2020 Youth Olympic gold medalist put down an 82.06 on her first run, and in her last effort on Run 3 didn't fully catch the second rail section and came up short.
"I can't explain how happy I am right now. It's been such a great experience," said Sildaru, who missed the 2018 PyeongChang Games with an injury.
On Run 2, the 19-year-old improved on the rails and upped her second jump but then lost her ski on the last jump, similar to the unlucky mishap that occurred in big air.
"I don't know why it's happening to me," Sildaru said. "The second time it happened to me, during the Olympics, and during the same trick. I was like, 'I just can't believe it. Like, why is this happening to me?' I can't change it. I did my part, I did my run and I should be proud about it."
American Maggie Voisin's second run yielded a 74.28, which held in the bronze position until the last few runs. The 23-year-old Montanan was unable to execute a grab correctly on her final run and couldn't better her score, ultimately finishing fifth.
Big air silver medalist Tess Ledeux of France finished seventh. The reigning X Games champion and 2017 world title-winner's first run was a solid 72.91, but she had trouble on the rails during her other two runs and couldn't better the score.
"I gave all I have today. That’s it. I am tired right now, but I am trying to focus on the positives of these Games," Ledeux said. "This winter was a challenge with COVID and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen my family … I am proud of what I accomplished. I fought until the very end. I have no regrets."