China’s Eileen Gu took a chaotic path to the top of the podium in the halfpipe competition at the FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup in Calgary this week after briefly losing her passport and nearly missing her flight to Canada.
Gu beat American Hanna Faulhaber and Canadian Rachael Karker on Thursday for a second halfpipe World Cup win this season but arriving in time for the event was a victory in itself for the 18-year-old, who is tipped to win gold in the Beijing Olympics.
“Yesterday I was in a different country with a lost passport and had no idea how I was going to get here,” said Gu, who arrived at the Canada Olympic Park for the first time only on the day of competition.
“But I figured it out at the last moment, got to my flight, was the last person on my flight, forgot my phone charger, no mom, no coach… everything was just kind of chaotic.”
Gu spent 45 minutes training at the venue before putting on an impressive run that included signature moves as well as a new combination – left alley-oop flat 540 mute into a right alley-oop flat 540 safety – to finish in style.
“I’ve been talking to my mom and my coach on the chairlift and getting amazing support from my friends here, so it’s been good,” Gu added.
“We made it work. I wanted to come out here and have fun… That was the goal and I had a great time tonight.”
Gu tops the World Cup halfpipe leaderboard with 200 points, followed by Karker with 140, and Faulhaber with 125.
The Winter Games begin on Feb. 4.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru)