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Olympics Updates: Eileen Gu Heads to the Slopestyle Course

Olympics Updates: Eileen Gu Heads to the Slopestyle Course


Eileen Gu of China during the women’s freestyle big air competition on Tuesday.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

ZHANGJIAKOU, China — The Eileen Gu Show moved to the mountains, as China’s favorite Olympic athlete — an 18-year-old freestyle skier from California — began competing in the second of her three events.

Gu is a favorite in women’s slopestyle, the event where competitors ski through a mountain course of rails and obstacles before navigating a series of three big jumps.

Gu already has one gold medal, in big air, earned in dramatic, come-from-behind fashion last Tuesday at an industrial park in western Beijing. Her win catapulted her to another level of fame and scrutiny. Afterward, she deftly answered questions from reporters for more than an hour while swiping away probing queries about her citizenship status.

The Olympics have a policy that athletes must be citizens of the country for which they compete, and China does not allow dual citizenship.

Gu, whose mother was born and raised in China and who maintains deep ties to Beijing, is a ubiquitous figure here. Her face graces advertisements of all sorts and her exploits receive constant attention on state-run news channels.

On a breezy and snowy Sunday morning at Genting Snow Park, before a crowd of Chinese media, Gu began her quest for another gold in the qualification round of slopestyle. She arrived as part of a field of 27 competitors, all vying to be one of the 12 that advance to the next day’s finals.

It is an event that suits Gu, who showed technical prowess on the rails at a young age, working with the U.S. national team (she switched to China in 2019), and she is a daring jumper, as her big air victory demonstrated.

In a smattering of international competitions over the past year, Gu has won or finished second in every slopestyle event. Her biggest threat here is likely to come from Kelly Sildaru of Estonia and Tess Ledeux of France. It was Ledeux who led the big air event until Gu’s final jump dropped her to silver.

Gu’s third and final event will be on Friday in the halfpipe, another event she has dominated over the past year. Her popularity has soared already, and it is hard to imagine just how big Gu will be if she manages to leave Beijing — on her way back home to San Francisco — with three gold medals.


Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

The legal battle over Kamila Valieva’s eligibility to compete at the Olympics will continue on Sunday with a hearing before a panel from the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The status of Valieva, the 15-year-old Russian figure skater at the center of a doping scandal threatening to overshadow the Games, has been in doubt after it was revealed on Friday that she had tested positive for a banned drug in December.

The court, in a statement, said it expected to render a decision by Monday afternoon, a day before the women’s short program begins.

The panel of arbitrators will consider an appeal filed by several groups, including the World Anti-Doping Agency, the International Olympic Committee and the International Skating Union, which have challenged a decision by Russia’s antidoping agency to lift a provisional suspension of Valieva last week.

The finding that she had tested positive — had it not been delayed more than six weeks — would have made her ineligible to compete in Beijing. The Russian antidoping agency said it had received her positive test result on Monday, the same day Valieva led the Russian team to a gold medal in the team event.

It provisionally suspended her on Tuesday, shortly before the medals were to be awarded in the team event, after informing her of the positive test. But it lifted the penalty a day later.

“This is a very complicated and controversial situation,” Valieva’s coach, Eteri Tutberidze, told Russia’s state-run TV network Channel One on Saturday, in her first public comments about the case. “There are many questions and very few answers.”

Tutberidze told Channel One that she was not sure how Valieva had been cleared to compete at the Olympics in the first place. It took a Stockholm lab more than six weeks to report that a urine sample Valieva submitted on Dec. 25 had been found to contain traces of a banned drug, trimetazidine, that is thought to increase endurance.

Despite those unknowns, Tutberidze quickly added, “I wanted to say that we are absolutely confident that Kamila is innocent and clean.”

Russian officials have been quick to defend Valieva, who is the heavy favorite to win the gold medal in the women’s singles event.


Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The two weeks-plus duration of the Olympic Games tends to have a certain rhythm. And it’s in the final week that fatigue can start to set in. So many great performances. So much triumph and heartbreak. How much more can we take?

Consider that all of these events, and many more — featuring a host of Olympic stars in Beijing — are still to come.

In figure skating, ice dancing and pairs will draw their share of attention, but there are few events more anticipated than women’s singles skating. And this time, off-the-ice drama has intruded: After Kamila Valieva of Russia tested positive for a banned substance, it is still unclear whether the skater with the dazzling quad jump will be in the final. A decision is expected by Monday afternoon in Beijing. The good news for Russia? It has a strong bench and could win gold even without Valieva. The women’s short program is on Tuesday, and the free skate is on Thursday.

In freestyle skiing, it’s all about Eileen Gu of China. After winning the big air event, she could add the slopestyle gold in the final on Monday (Sunday night in the United States) and another in the halfpipe on Friday (Thursday night in the United States). And ski cross, one of the wildest events of the Games, with four skiers racing one another on the same course all at once, is on Thursday for the women and on Friday for the men. The potential for chaos traditionally makes it a wide-open event, but Sandra Naslund of Sweden sure is tough to beat.

In Alpine skiing, the women’s downhill — always a big race — is on Tuesday (Monday night in the United States). And the combined event, scheduled for Thursday, offers Mikaela Shiffrin one more chance at a gold medal after early exits in her first two events, and a finish well off the podium in her third.

In hockey, the women’s final, almost certainly between the longtime rivals Canada and the United States, is on Thursday (Wednesday night in the United States). The men’s final is next Sunday (Saturday night in the United States).

In curling, the finals are on Saturday for the men, and next Sunday (Saturday night in the United States) for the women.

In bobsled, the new monobob event for women makes its debut on Sunday and Monday (Saturday and Sunday night in the United States). Two Americans, Elana Meyers Taylor (after a Covid scare) and Kaillie Humphries (who used to race for Canada), might go 1-2 — or is it 2-1?

In speedskating, if you’ve been left unmoved by the races so far, which have been in a time trial format, you might fall in love with the mass start events on Saturday. In those, 24 skaters are crowded onto the ice at once.


Credit…James Hill for The New York Times

The French world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, whose ethereal style has been described as “music floating around the ice,” glided into the lead in the rhythm dance portion of the Olympic ice dancing competition on Saturday.

Papadakis and Cizeron, four-time world champions and the heavy favorites for gold in Beijing, opened a comfortable lead of nearly two points over their closest challengers, Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia. Their score of 90.83 points broke their own world record in the rhythm dance, and recognized a dazzling blend of skill and grace that — when they are in perfect form, as they were on Saturday — makes them nearly impossible for their rivals to match.

The American pairs of Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue (87.13) and Madison Chock and Evan Bates (84.14) were in third and fourth place after the rhythm dance.

Rhythm Dance

Free Dance



G. Papadakis / G. Cizeron

FRA flag


90.83 90.83

V. Sinitsina / N. Katsalapov

ROC flag

Russian Olympic Committee

88.85 88.85

M. Hubbell / Z. Donohue

USA flag

United States

87.13 87.13

Twenty-three teams performed on Saturday, with the top 20 advancing to the free skate on Monday in Beijing (Sunday night in the United States). Scores from the two events will be combined to determine the medal winners.

As in the pairs figure skating event, the routines are performed by a man and a woman, often dancing hand in hand. But ice dancing strips down some of the more acrobatic elements of pairs skating, prohibiting spiraling jumps and high-flying lifts. Many have drawn comparisons to ballroom dancing.

Papadakis and Cizeron, though, have taken the discipline to a higher level, even as they skipped the European championships last month in Estonia in an effort to minimize their risk of coronavirus exposure, and to ensure that they would not experience a repeat of their disappointment at the 2018 Games. In that event, a wardrobe malfunction affecting Papadakis seemed to leave the couple somewhat unnerved and guarded.

They finished the short program in second place in 2018, and ended the competition less than a point behind the eventual champions, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada.


Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The U.S. broadcast coverage of the 2022 Winter Games continues on Friday with events in figure skating, bobsled and Alpine skiing. All times are Eastern.

SNOWBOARDING At 7 p.m., USA Network airs a rebroadcast of the mixed team snowboard cross, an event making its debut at the Beijing Olympics. The veteran American pairing of Lindsey Jacobellis, 36, and Nick Baumgartner, 40, prove they haven’t been slowed by age.

SKELETON Coverage of the women’s third and final runs begins at 8 p.m. on NBC.

BOBSLED Monobob, an event making its Olympic debut in Beijing and airing live at 8:30 p.m. on NBC, will be contested solely by women. In monobob, one sledder does it all: push, leap and drive. The contenders for the United States are the veteran driver Elana Meyers Taylor and Kaillie Humphries, who became a U.S. citizen last year. The network airs the second run at 10:30 p.m.

FIGURE SKATING The ethereal style of the French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron has been described as “music floating around the ice.” Catch them in the rhythm dance portion of the competition beginning at 8:45 p.m. on NBC. At 11:45 p.m. on the NBC Olympic Channel, see coverage of the women’s figure skating practice sessions; skaters from the United States and Russia take to the ice.

ALPINE SKIING The first run of the men’s super-G airs live at 9:15 p.m. on NBC. And training for the women’s downhill event airs live at 11 p.m. on USA Network.

Alpine Skiing

Men’s Giant Slalom

Cross-Country Skiing

Men’s 4×10km Relay


Women’s 10km Pursuit


Men’s 12.5km Pursuit

Short-Track Speedskating

Women’s 3,000m Relay

Short-Track Speedskating

Men’s 500m

Long-Track Speedskating

Women’s 500m

The rhythm of ice dancing, an Olympic record in team pursuit, and a victory over Canada for the U.S. men’s hockey team: Here are the best shots from our photographers in Beijing.

Latest Medal Count  ›


NOR flag


8 3 6 17

GER flag


8 5 1 14

AUT flag


4 6 4 14

ROC flag

Russian Olympic Committee

3 4 6 13

CAN flag


1 4 8 13


Credit…James Hill for The New York Times

The curling arena darkened, and strobe lights blotted the ice. A band of bagpipers marched in, almost like a vision from another time — or at the very least, another continent.

The musicians are self-described amateurs mostly from Beijing. None of them have ever been to Scotland. But they were dressed as though they had just arrived from the Highlands: red plaid kilts adorned with the little pouches with long tufts of horsehair known as sporrans, all part of the uniform they had ordered from abroad.

The steady squeal of “Scotland the Brave” held its own against the din of the arena — the selection a nod, no doubt, to curling’s Scottish roots. But the anthem is also sort of a default tune for the instrument; tutorial videos on how to play it were easy to find online. And the band needed that help since their teacher, the only one they could find in China, had recently left the country.

“We just like bagpipes,” the leader of the pipers, Zhang A Li, said after one of their pregame performances — a staple of curling tournaments whether in China or Chicago. “And we all just came together.”

In a way, the band’s formation reflects the sprawling challenge that confronted Chinese officials in hosting the Winter Olympics in a nation with little background or familiarity in the events that would play out. A big air slope was built in a former industrial park, a bobsled course was carved into a mountain and, of course, bountiful artificial snow was needed for a region that gets very little precipitation in winter.

And curling competitions demand bagpipers.


Credit…James Hill for The New York Times

The first question at an Olympics daily news conference came from a German reporter, and anyone could have guessed what he would ask.

“On the Kamila Valieva case,” the reporter began, referring to the teenage figure skater in the middle of the latest Russian doping scandal, “can you explain why it took six weeks for the positive test result to come to light?”

The second question went to a reporter from Xinhua, the official news agency of China, and the discourse went, well, somewhere else.

“What is the favorite dish among the athletes?” the Chinese reporter asked. “Do you have a specific number for how many roast ducks are being served?”

On this went. There were 12 questions asked in English, and 11 were about the doping scandal. There were seven questions asked in Chinese, and they were about, basically, anything else.

It was, in one neat hour, a perfect encapsulation of the parallel approach to reporting on the Games inside the Olympic bubble. Each morning inside a cavernous hall, reporters from outside outlets outside China pepper the International Olympic Committee spokesman with often indelicate questions about what is awry. In between, domestic reporters query his Chinese counterparts about all that is well.

The two press corps, of course, have different aims, and limitations. But rarely are they so starkly juxtaposed, and for such an extended period, as they have been at these Games.