The first-ever Olympic medals in Ski Big Air were doled out today in Beijing, China at the Women’s Ski Big Air Final. It was a nail-biting finish, with several of freeskiing’s top women going blow for blow over three runs in an attempt to walk away with the hardware at the sport’s debut on the Olympic stage.
The first run saw top contender Tess Ledeux break out into an early lead, stomping a clean double cork 1620 safety for a dominant score of 94.5. Her main competitor Eileen Gu trailed her by less than a point with a flawless right double 1440 safety. Kirsty Muir, an unexpected talent from Great Britain, put down a beautiful double cork 12 tail that put her in podium contention with a score of 90.25.
Switzerland’s Mathilde Gremaud also delivered with a squeaky clean carve left double 1260 safety, landing in fourth place for the time being. Olivia Asselin unleashed an eye-catching double flatspin 900 screamin’ seamen but missed the safety grab, and top qualifier Megan Oldham underrotated her switch dub 10 japan just a touch, scoring in the mid 80s.
In Run 2, Ledeux unleashed her secret weapon: a switch left 1440 japan that we haven’t seen from her before. Grabbed well and landed clean, the trick netted her another big score in the 90s for a dominant lead. Mathilde Gremaud bumped up into second place with the help of her own big-gun trick, the switch double cork 1440 safety, which she landed as cleanly as she ever has. Gu remained landed her second trick, a flawless left double cork 1080 safety to japan, to remain in podium contention.
Meanwhile Norwegian veteran Johanne Killi debuted a switch double 1440 of her own, but missed the grab and was loose in the landing. Kirsty Muir only spun a switch 900, but capped the best blunt grab of the contest. Olivia Asselin, Anastasia Tatalina, Darian Stevens and Sandra Eie all made errors for the second time, effectively removing themselves from the running for the top placements.
Run 3, this one for all the marbles. The order changed for the final round, with the top-scoring women dropping last. The ranks stayed largely unchanged until near the end, when Eileen Gu went for broke with a leftside double cork 1620, landing it clean. Her score of 94.5 bumped her just ahead of Tess Ledeux, again by less than one point’s difference.
In her own shot at the top spot, Mathilde Gremaud sent a double cork 1440 attempt, but lost control and landed on her side. On the last hit of the day, Ledeux needed to improve her score only slightly to unseat Eileen Gu. She sent her switch 1440 again and grabbed double japan this time, but got caught up a bit on the takeoff and bobbled the landing on one foot. It wouldn’t be enough to knock out Eileen Gu, who takes home the first women’s Ski Big Air gold medal for China.
The Men’s Olympic Big Air finals will follow tomorrow at 4:00am CET. Watch them on the Eurosport player or on the national broadcaster in your country.
A few notes on each competitor.
Left double cork 1080 mute (81)
Switch left 900 safety (54)
Left double cork 1080 mute (82.5)
The young Finn was clearly stoked just to be in the field in this heavy-hitting final.
Right double flat 900 screamin’ (62)
Left double cork 1260 (60.25)
Left double cork 1080 safety (85.5)
Asselin had the tricks to vie for the podium, but a pair of missed grabs kept her out of contention.
Switch right double 1080 japan (87.75)
Switch left double 1440 (58.50)
Switch left double 1260 (65.5)
Killi came packing with a secret-weapon switch 14, but the mute grab eluded her best efforts.
Switch right double cork 10 mute (82.5)
Switch left double cork 10 safety (53)
Switch left double cork 10 safety (76.25)
Hoefflin relied on both-way switch 10s. But this sport’s now being competed at 12, 14 and 16 rotations.
Switch left misty 10 safety (56.75)
Switch left misty 10 safety (50.75)
Left double cork 1440 safety, crash (18.25)
Stevens boldly sent her switch misty deep into the landing, but had some crucial mistakes on execution. On her last hit, she went for broke with a double 14 attempt. Kudos for effort!
Left double cork 1260 tail (90.25)
Switch left misty 900 blunt (78.75)
Switch left misty 1080 tail, crash (15.5)
Muir’s flawless dub 12 tail put her on the map in this contest. This young rookie has a bright future.
Left double cork 12 safety (89.25)
Switch double cork 1440 safety (93.25)
Left double cork 1440, crash (26)
Gremaud delivered a fine performance, nailing her two big tricks perfectly to earn the bronze.
Right double cork 1440 safety (93.75)
Left double 1080 safety to japan (88.5)
Left double cork 1620 tindy (94.5)
Naysayers will argue this was a Chinese coup. But Eileen won this contest fair and square with a clutch performance.
Left double 1080 japan, crash (17)
Right double 1080 japan, crash (19)
Right cork 720 tail (64.5)
Today wasn’t Sandra’s day, with crashes on her first two attempts.
Left double 12 mute (75.5)
Right double 12 mute, crash (22.25)
Right double 12 mute (73.5)
Russia’s big air queen was just a bit too casual on the landings of her mirror double 12s, foiling a repeat of her World Champs win last year.
Left double cork 16 safety (94.5)
Switch left 1440 japan (93)
Switch left 1440 double japan (73.5)
Ledeux did absolutely all she could to win this contest, and can be proud of her huge effort and a well deserved silver medal.
Switch left double 10 japan (85)
Left double 1260 safety (89.25)
Switch left double 1080 japan (88.75)
The top qualifier’s tricks were on point like few others. But the big spins from her competition kept her in fourth place.
Poles vs. No Poles: There’s been quite the debate this season about big air competitors using poles. It seems this is one of the last details, aside from grabs, switch skiing and jump style, separating big air from aerials. Half of the women in today’s finals carried poles, while half went without.