For the past couple of years, skiing's most ardent followers have referred to competitive skier Eileen Gu as, "one to keep an eye out for." In the span of 36 hours, between January 29 and 30, 2021, Eileen sky-rocketed from newcomer on the contest circuit to, well, the absolute pinnacle. Now she's being called, "skiing’s next mega-star."
The seventeen-year-old Chinese-American athlete — who resides in San Francisco — delivered a historic performance at X Games 2021, in Aspen, Colorado; Eileen medaled in all three events that she participated in, a first for a rookie female competitor in the event's 25-year history.
Eileen's X Games debut came on Friday, the 29th, when she took flight in the Big Air contest. Eileen skied her way to a bronze medal, behind silver medalist Megan Oldham, and gold medalist — Eileen's fellow on the Faction Skis athlete roster — Mathilde Gremaud. Just hours later, performing under the lights in the storied Buttermilk Mountain Superpipe, Eileen earned her first gold medal, besting the reigning Olympic gold medalist in halfpipe, Cassie Sharpe.
One day later, Eileen shocked the freeskiing community when she won gold, yet again, in Slopestyle. In so doing, Eileen put her exclamation point on one of the most impressive debuts in X Games history. She also became the first athlete representing China to ever win gold at the X Games.
Eileen remarked, "Winning slopestyle was an unreal experience and being the first female rookie to win three medals at the X Games capped off the best two days of my life." She added, "Thank you to all of my supporters and X Games organizers. Dreams do come true."
It's easy to speculate that for a seventeen-year-old, overnight X Games stardom and the subsequent attention from global media might be overwhelming. Eileen is remarkable in that her athletic prowess is complemented by remarkable poise. After winning gold in the halfpipe, Eileen shunned the spotlight and turned it instead in the direction of the late, great Sarah Burke, the Canadian ski-star who pioneered halfpipe skiing, earning five X Games gold medals in her career and paving the way for skiers of the future - like Eileen.
After completing her medal trifecta on Saturday, Eileen commented, “This is something I wouldn’t even dare to dream of. I came into this contest with a goal of getting one podium, and I thought that was ambitious. It’s really just the adrenaline of my first X Games and being so hyped to be here that it was able to get me through. I probably am going to go hibernate for 24 hours straight and not talk to anybody because I’m exhausted now. But I couldn’t be happier.”
Eileen is a gifted athlete, an established model, a musician, and a young scholar, who is set to attend Stanford University in 2022. At just 17, she was featured in Forbes’ China 30 Under 30 entertainment and sports list. We like to think that we could see this coming. But as we all know, nothing in this world is assured. Eileen's performance this weekend has left us as stunned as anyone else. Eileen rose to the occasion. Reliant on herself, and with help from coaches, family, and friends, she exceeded expectation.
From a young woman who scared her mother half to death when she performed her very first backflip on skis, just a few short years ago, to "skiing's next mega star," we're humbled to watch you go, Eileen. And we suspect you know as well as we do, you're just getting started.
Congratulations, Eileen, on your historic weekend.
— The team at Faction