The world’s best young freestyle skiers revelled in the chance to inspire a new generation as crowds of kids packed the slopes for the women’s freeski halfpipe on Monday.
The rescheduling of the slopestyle finals from Sunday gave the relatively recent sport an enhanced stage and with schools from all over the region flocking to the Leysin Park & Pipe centre, it took full advantage.
“I was high-fiving kids on the way up,” women’s halfpipe gold medal winner Gu Ailing Eileen (CHN) said. “You’ve got to put the focus on the next generation.”
Silver medallist in the women’s freeski slopestyle, Gu was irrepressible on the halfpipe. She topped qualification before dominating the final. Her 93.00-point second run in the final was 7.34 clear of compatriot Li Fanghui in second, with the USA’s Hanna Faulhaber taking bronze.
“One of the main reasons I switched to China [from the USA] was I felt like I had more opportunity to inspire young girls,” said Gu, who grew up in San Francisco with her Chinese mother. “And I think I have definitely had that impact.”
When asked if she had a specific message for those who had just watched her storm to a Youth Olympic Games title, Gu was straight to the point.
“Don’t be afraid to try,” she said. “Try a new trick, a new sport, sit next to someone new at lunch, make a new friend. That is how we are going to change the world.”
Faulhaber could not agree more. “The Youth Olympics can make a difference, 100 per cent,” the 15-year-old said. “There are not that many girls doing our sport but here so many have been watching me practice even, it’s amazing.”