• AFP-JIJI, Reuters

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Californian-born Eileen Gu won a spectacular gold for China at the Beijing Olympics on Tuesday as she triumphed in the inaugural women’s freeski Big Air at the Winter Games.

After a strong opening jump, the 18-year-old saved her best for her last leap when she managed four rotations before grabbing the outside of her ski and landing backwards.

The stunning jump saw her snatch first place from France’s Tess Ledeux, 20, the Big Air champion at last month’s X Games in Aspen, who had to settle for silver.

“That was the best moment of my life. The happiest moment, day, whatever — of my life. I just cannot believe what just happened,” Gu said.

As Gu set off for her final run, the crowd of several hundred at the Big Air Shougang venue roared “Come on.”

The teenager, who switched allegiance from the United States to China in 2019, put her hands on her helmet as she landed cleanly and realised she had pulled off a winning jump.

It was scored at 94.50, the same as Ledeux’s best in the first round. That gave Gu a total score of 188.25, combining her two highest-scoring jumps, compared to 187.50 for the Frenchwoman.

China's Gu Ailing Eileen competes in the freestyle skiing women's freeski big air final run during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at the Big Air Shougang on Tuesday. | AFP-JIJI
China’s Gu Ailing Eileen competes in the freestyle skiing women’s freeski big air final run during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at the Big Air Shougang on Tuesday. | AFP-JIJI

At the finish zone, Gu screamed with joy and fell to her knees as the scores flashed up, watched by International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, who was among the first to congratulate her on her gold medal on her debut.

The crowd then gave her a standing ovation.

Gu, born to an American father and Chinese mother, has become hugely popular in China and endorses several luxury brands.

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai was on hand on Tuesday to watch Gu win.

Peng, who could be seen in the stands wearing a black knit hat with the Olympic rings on them and a black coat with the Chinese flag, acknowledged a greeting from a journalist but declined to answer questions as she left the venue.

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