At just 18 years of age, Eileen Gu is one of the most recognised names in winter sports.
During her first ever Olympic Games, the nerves that would usually shroud a youngster have not even caused a flinch in the eye of the trailblazing skier.
In fact, Gu was so unfazed by the magnitude of the occasion that she breezed to two record-breaking milestones in Beijing.
The teenager stole the spotlight when she became the youngest ever Olympic gold medalist in freestyle skiing. Gu won the big air event to carve her name in history — completing a stunning routine that featured a never-before-seen landed left-turn 1620.
Gu then earned silver in the slopestyle event before going to achieve a history-making third medal in the halfpipe competition.
Her sensational performance saw her clinch a second gold and third gong overall, making her the first action sports athlete to win a hat-trick of medals at a single Olympics.
Behind such inspiring performances is an equally inspiring sportswoman who has an almost unimaginable future of success ahead of her.
The accidental pro skier
Gu was born in California where her Chinese-American mother Yan and her grandmother raised her.
Skiing has been in Gu’s life since very early on. With her mother working as a skiing instructor with a student-athlete background, the passion for winter sports was drip-fed through the family.
Yan enrolled her daughter in ski lessons when she was very young so Gu could reportedly keep up with her mother, who was extremely confident in the snow.
In her own words, Gu admitted her mother had “accidentally created a pro skier” and sure enough, she went on to take the world of winter sports by storm.
Despite being born in California, Gu changed her allegiance on the sporting stage in 2019.
She requested a change of nation to the International Ski Federation and after announcing the switch, stated she hoped she could help “inspire millions of young people” in China and “unite people, promote common understanding, create communication, and forge friendships between nations.”
The American-born skier made it her goal to compete at the 2022 Winter Olympics representing China. She has achieved exactly what she set out to do, and then some.
Gold medals galore
Gu has won a total of nine senior medals across her skiing career so far and three at youth level.
In 2021, she went from a plucky newcomer to a multiple gold medal holder and world champion. Gu won gold in the X Games superpipe and slopestyle events, as well as the halfpipe and slopestyle at the World Championships.
Gu also became the first woman in history to land a forward double cork 1440.
After dominating in Aspen, the teenager shifted her focus to representing her country at its home Winter Olympics.
However, her decision to represent China came with some backlash and she was labelled “ungrateful” by a Fox News analyst. There has also been some questions raised regarding her citizenship, especially since China does not recognise dual-nationals, meaning Gu would not be able to hold a US passport simultaneously.
But it hasn’t affected her performances or her ability to wow her adoring nation. With three medals in her first Winter Olympic Games and several pieces of history already under her belt, Gu could be headed towards becoming one of China’s most decorated Olympic athletes.