Eileen Gu has had an unforgettable Olympics. She became the first freestyler skier to win three medals at a single Olympics. She became a household name overnight, but there was still one important person in her life she had to convince to be a fan – her grandma. Outside of winning a medal, her hardest task might be convincing her grandmother that she's a good enough skier to do it professionally.
We all know grandparents can be some of our biggest supporters and toughest critics at the same time. Gu’s grandmother may not fully grasp just how good her granddaughter is; that her granddaughter is one of the world’s best freestyle skiers. She has pleaded with Gu to become a doctor or lawyer instead of a skier.
"She's never watched me compete. I don't think she's ever watched me ski," the 18-year-old told reporters with a laugh after coming in first during Thursday's halfpipe qualifiers.
Gu said her grandmother arrived in China this week to watch her compete for the first time.
Before her halfpipe competition, Gu said “She’s going to be unfazed and unimpressed I think,” about her grandma's reaction to watching her compete.
The American-born skier, raised by her mother and grandmother in San Francisco, switched to compete for China in 2019, her mother’s native land. Even though Gu had already impressed everyone back home from the states with two Olympic medals in her debut, she said she was eager to win over her grandmother before her final event in halfpipe.
"I'm super honored to have her here. She's always the one saying 'Be safe, be safe, just land.'"
Good advice considering the event and the fact that she is known for her amplitude in the halfpipe. The California-native added that her grandmother had not yet accepted that she was a professional skier.
“She said ‘you’re just doing it for fun. You can go be a doctor or lawyer later’,” Gu said of her grandmother’s words.
Despite her grandmother’s hesitancy to embrace skiing as a profession, Gu has said it’s her grandma that gave her a deeply competitive streak.
Entering the halfpipe, the teenager already won two medals at the 2022 Winter Games. She won gold in the big air event and silver in slopestyle.
Gu wanted to show her grandma her sport and passion and did exactly that. She even had a near-perfect second run. Her first two runs claimed the top-two scores of the day (93.25 and 95.25).
She was so dominant that she was able to have a “victory lap” on her final run. The 18-year-old truly embraced the moment.
"It has been two straight weeks of the most intense highs and lows I've ever experienced in my life," Gu said. "It has changed my life forever. The second I landed the last 16 in big air I knew my life was never going to be the same … never imagined that I'd walk away with another silver and another gold."
With her halfpipe win, Gu became the first athlete to win three medals in three different freestyle skiing disciplines. China had never won a medal in any of those three disciplines before. She definitely had a breakout Olympics and will only be 22 for the Milano Cortina Games in 2026.
Gu is headed to Stanford after deferring to prepare for the Olympics, something that should make her grandma happy. However, after seeing her compete in person, maybe she can believe it’s not just a phase and her granddaughter is good enough to be a professional skier.