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Eileen Gu one medal away from making Olympics history

Sitting in eighth place after two runs, the 18-year-old needed a strong final performance (again) to work her way onto the medal podium.

BEIJING, China — In a post-event interview, Eileen Gu was praised for grabbing “gold" with her final run.

“Silver,” she ever-so-politely corrected. “Don't tease me like that.”

By the slimmest of margins, too.

The standout American-born freestyle skier who represents China finished runner-up with her last run of the Olympic women's slopestyle contest on Tuesday. It keeps alive her quest to become the first action-sports athlete to capture three medals at the same Winter Games.

Her bid for another gold medal was thwarted by Mathilde Gremaud. The skier from Switzerland ended up taking the event by just 0.33 with a sensational second run. Kelly Sildaru of Estonia took home bronze on a bitterly cold and hazy day with the temperature hovering around minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 20 degrees Celsius).

“So, so special,” Gu said of earning silver. “It really came down to the last run — again.”

Just like last week, when she earned gold in big air by coming up clutch in her final attempt.

“I don’t know why I keep doing it to myself,” Gu said. “It doesn’t make it easy for myself. It certainly doesn’t make it easy for my coaches. My mom has a heart attack every day. It’s definitely not the easiest. But I'm happy I was able to push through and turn that pressure into fuel.”

Sitting in eighth place after two runs, Gu used a strong final performance to work her way onto the podium. Her run included a double-cork 900 with a Buick grab at the end that impressed the judges and earned her a score of 86.23. She couldn’t catch Gremaud, though, who scored an 86.56 on her second run.

Credit: AP
China's Eileen Gu falls during the women's slopestyle finals at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, in Zhangjiakou, China. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

It's an upgrade in medals for Gremaud, who won the silver at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games and captured bronze in big air last week in Beijing. She also finished second at the Winter X Games last month.

That's now two medals for Gu, the 18-year-old American-born freestyler who is competing for her mother’s home country of China. She's also in the halfpipe competition starting with qualifying on Thursday.

“My goal coming into the Olympics was to have one gold and have one more podium in a different event,” Gu said. “I’ve already met that goal and I'm going into my strongest event (halfpipe).”

It was a difficult start for Gu, who struggled on an early rail in her first run. Then, on her second pass through the Secret Garden course, she over-rotated on a trick off a rail and tumbled to the snow. She put her helmet back on and skied to the bottom.

Credit: AP
Gold medal winner Switzerland's Mathilde Gremaud and Silver medal winner China's Eileen Gu celebrate after the women's slopestyle finals at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, in Zhangjiakou, China. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Before starting her third and final run, she put her hands on her hips and stared off to the side of the course to find her focus. Then she turned in a splendid run.

“Absolutely love Eileen. She’s just an incredible human,” said American skier Maggie Voisin, who finished fifth. “I mean, no one works as hard as that girl does. She deserves everything.”

American freestyle skier Marin Hamill made the field for the final but didn't start after hurting her leg in a crash during the qualifying round. The team said she was heading back to the United States for further evaluation.