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Eileen Gu wins ski halfpipe in X Games return

As Paris Olympics beckon, Tirico reflects on 2023
As 2023 nears an end and another Olympic year awaits, Mike Tirico reflects on the gold standards of Simone Biles, Mikaela Shiffrin, Sha'Carri Richardson, Ilia Malinin, Caeleb Dressel, Jordan Stolz, Erin Jackson and more.

China’s Eileen Gu extended a nearly three-year ski halfpipe win streak in her return to the Winter X Games after missing the Aspen, Colorado, event last year due to injury.

Gu, a three-time 2022 Olympic medalist, landed back-to-back 900s in her first run, scoring 94.66 points, and in her third run, scoring 95.66.

Gu won her X Games debut in 2021, then took Olympic gold in 2022. Since, the 20-year-old has juggled Stanford classes, fashion modeling and skiing.

She was set to compete in her second X Games last year until injuring knee ligaments and suffering a bone bruise in a heavy training crash the day before the competition.

Gu competed this year having recently injured her right hip in training, according to commentators. “Pain is temporary,” was written on her hand.

“This is probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do,” she said on the broadcast. “I’ve never skied with pain like this before, just excruciating, constant, can barely walk right now, honestly. But I think it’s really a testament to how much I love the sport.”

Fellow Stanford sophomore Zoe Atkin of Great Britain, last year’s champion in Gu’s absence, took second with a 90.66-point run.

Gu was on the entry list for slopestyle on Sunday, the last day of X Games competition, but posted late Saturday that she would withdraw. Gu took slopestyle silver at the Olympics behind Swiss Mathilde Gremaud, who is in Sunday’s field.

Gu did not enter her other Olympic gold medal event, big air, which took place later Saturday. Frenchwoman Tess Ledeux won it for a third time.

Also Saturday, Norwegian Birk Ruud won men’s ski slopestyle with back-to-back double cork 1620s, prevailing over Americans Alex Hall (the Olympic gold medalist) and Mac Forehand.

Taiga Hasegawa, an 18-year-old from Japan, won men’s snowboard big air with a 1980.