Teenage Olympic sensation Eileen Gu wins gold. And crashes the Chinese internet
Beijing (CNN)Eileen Gu fans temporarily crashed China's leading social media platform on Tuesday, as tens of millions rushed online to celebrate the teenage freeski sensation winning her first gold medal of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
American-born Gu, 18, jumped into the top position at the women's big air competition with her third run, scoring 94.5 with a 1620 and a perfect landing -- making her total score 188.25 in the event's debut at the Winter Olympics.
She narrowly beat out France's Tess Ledeux, who took silver with a score of 187.50. Switzerland's Mathilde Gremaud won the bronze.
"That was the best moment of my life. The happiest moment, day, whatever -- of my life. I just cannot believe what just happened," said Gu after her win, according to the Olympic site.
"Even if I didn't land it, I felt it would send a message out to the world and hopefully encourage more girls to break their own boundaries," she added. "That was my biggest goal going into my last run. I reminded myself to have fun and enjoy the moment and that, no matter what, I was so grateful to even have this opportunity to even be here."
Fans filled the stands to cheer for Gu, who was born and raised in California but decided in 2019 to compete for China. Known as the "snow princess" among her Chinese fans, Gu -- already a reigning world champion -- has become the unofficial face of China's Olympic ambitions, and saw her popularity skyrocket in the lead-up to the Games.
Ledeux, who had been leading the competition until the last run when she overbalanced on the landing, sank to the ground in tears after the final result. Gu and Gremaud both knelt on the snowy floor to console her, pulling Ledeux into a hug and rubbing her back.
Gu's victory sparked joyous scenes online. The topic dominated searches on China's Twitter-like platform Weibo, where seven of the 10 top trending topics were all about Gu's win. Fans on her Weibo, where she has 2.6 million followers, left more than 90,000 comments in less than 30-minutes after her win.
Related hashtags, such as "Gu Ailing won the gold medal," received more than 300 million views within an hour -- eventually crashing the entire Weibo site due to the massive number of users.
By Jessie Yeung and CNN's Beijing Bureau
Tue February 8, 2022