China's veteran free skier Xu Mengtao, a four-time Olympian and the runner-up at Sochi 2014, fulfilled her dream of winning an Olympic gold in the women's aerials at Beijing 2022 on Monday evening.
This is the first Olympic gold from the women's aerials for China. After Han Xiaopeng was crowned in the men's aerials at Turin 2006, China, one of the powerhouses in the free ski aerials, has been waiting for 16 years to win its second Olympic gold from the discipline.
Furthermore, it is also the fifth gold medal for China at Beijing 2022, equaling the record number of golds taken by China in a single Winter Olympics at Vancouver 2010.
Xu, 31, scored the winning mark of 108.61 points for her world top-notch trick of back-full-full-full which boasts of the difficulty degree of 4.293.
"I'm just super excited. This is the first gold medal by China in the women's aerials and it's just super cool," said Xu after the final.
"I just wanted to do the best trick I can do and I did it," said the veteran about her performance.
PyeongChang 2018 champion Hanna Huskova from Belarus, 29, collected 107.95 points on her trick with the difficulty degree of 4.028 to settle for the silver.
"I'm very happy with all my jumps but in the super final I went for a more difficult jump, and I'm happy I could land it very well," said Huskova.
"I'm very glad to be here at Beijing 2022 and it's amazing to get silver, it's incredible. Very happy, really," she added.
The bronze medal went to American Megan Nick, 25, who completed her trick with the difficulty degree of 3.525 for 93.76 points in her Olympic debut.
Xu's teammate Kong Fanyu, the event's bronze medalist at PyeongChang 2018, finished sixth with 59.67 points. She threw the same trick back-full-full-full but failed to land smoothly.
The final features two stages. In the first stage, all the 12 finalists make two jumps each, starting in reverse order of their qualification rankings, and are sorted by their best scores of the jumps. Then the top six enter the second stage where each athlete has only one chance to decide the final standings.
Both Xu and Kong advanced to the second stage as the second and third finisher in the first stage standings.
In the breathtaking grand final, four athletes including Australian ace Laura Peel and American star Ashley Caldwell showcased the back-full-full-full trick, but only Xu succeeded.
"Taotao (Xu Mengtao) has been pushing triples for longer than I have, and I respect her wholeheartedly. For her to win the gold medal in her own country is an incredible accomplishment and it brought tears to my eyes just as much as sadness did," said Caldwell, a close friend of Xu.
Xu, the leading figure of the Chinese women's free ski aerials, made her Olympic debut at Vancouver 2010 with a sixth-place finish. After a silver at Sochi 2014, she suffered a disaster at PyeongChang 2018 finishing ninth.
However, Xu topped the World Cup rankings with four golds, one silver and one bronze in the eight legs of the 2021-22 season.
Xu once said, "The result is determined by the process. If the process is good, the result will not be bad."