China's Gu Ailing wins women's halfpipe at World Championships
Hu Shichen

China's Gu Ailing continued her breakthrough in the FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboarding World Championships in Aspen, Colorado.

The double Youth Olympic gold medalist struggled in qualification for the women's skiing halfpipe and only sneaked in seventh of the eight finalists. But the 17-year-old clawed back to win the title and become the first Chinese to claim a medal in the event on Friday.

The Youth Olympic and X-Games champion took on the Buttermilk tube without the use of ski poles as she broke a hand a few weeks prior to the championships and was competing without them for the first time. Gu scored 93.00 points in her first run and finished with three of the top five scores of the day as she received 92.50 points and 89.00 in her second and third runs.

The event's top qualifier Rachael Karker of Canada, who scored 91.75 points in her third run and finished second, knocked Britain's Zoe Atkin down to bronze on her final run.

American-born Gu became China's first naturalized skier in 2019, before she won golds at the 2020 Lausanne Youth Olympics in both big air and halfpipe. 

Less than a month later, in Calgary, Canada, she won the halfpipe and slopestyle to become the first to win back-to-back titles in different disciplines at the same World Cup event. The 17-year-old then made a splash in her X Games debut in January, winning both the halfpipe and slopestyle events while also capturing bronze in big air.

(Cover image: Third place finisher Rachel Karker of Canada, first place finisher Gu Ailing of China, and third place finisher Zoe Atkin of Great Britain stand on the podium following the women's freeski halfpipe final at the Aspen 2021 FIS Snowboard and Freeski World Championship at Buttermilk Ski Resort in Aspen, Colorado, March 12, 2021. /CFP)

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