Shiffrin slides out at Beijing Olympics as Gu takes bow for China
US ski star Mikaela Shiffrin suffered bitter disappointment in her first attempt at Beijing Olympic gold on Monday while Californian-born Chinese freestyle skier Eileen Gu held her nerve to seal a place in the final on her Games debut.
Switzerland's Beat Feuz meanwhile mastered a treacherous course in Yanqing to win the prestigious men's downhill title.
Defending champion Shiffrin was among the favourites to retain the women's giant slalom title and win a third Olympic gold medal of her career, but in bright morning sunshine she made an error near the top of her first run and slid out.
"There's a huge disappointment, not even counting medals," she said. "The day was finished basically before it even started."
Shiffrin vowed to move on and quickly concentrate on Wednesday's shorter technical event in which she is a four-time world champion.
Two hours later, her Norwegian boyfriend Aleksander Aamodt Kilde completed a miserable day for skiing's golden couple when he could only finish fifth in the downhill despite starting as favourite.
With Shiffrin out, Sarah Hector of Sweden won the gold in the giant slalom.
At the Big Air Shougang venue in Beijing, where enormous industrial cooling towers provide a gritty but stunning backdrop to the skiers' midair moves, Gu took her Olympic bow.
The 18-year-old, who has captivated China since switching allegiance from the United States three years ago, misjudged her second attempt, coming down in a tangle on her second run.
She responded with a shrug and a smile and, with the pressure on, produced an assured third run to reach Tuesday's final -- and give herself a chance of gold on her Olympic debut.
"Oh my god!" she exclaimed.
- Experience counts -
Feuz blasted to gold in a dramatic men's downhill, improving on his bronze from Pyeongchang four years ago as he mastered an unforgiving course made from man-made snow on a barren mountain.
The most prestigious race in Olympic skiing -- a single high-speed run -- had been delayed from Sunday due to high winds.
Experience counted as the 34-year-old Swiss clocked 1min 42.69sec to finish 0.10sec ahead of 41-year-old Frenchman Johan Clarey, who became the oldest man or woman in history to win an Olympic alpine skiing medal.
Austrian Matthias Mayer took bronze while Kilde was more than half a second adrift of the winner.
"The Olympics are a big thing and today it worked for me... It means the world to me," Feuz said.
"I can't think of anything more beautiful than flying home with a gold medal around my neck."
Germany's Dominik Schwaiger left the course on a stretcher sledge after suffering an arm injury in a spectacular crash.
- Remarkable teenager -
Kamila Valieva, 15, made figure skating history, becoming the first woman to land a quadruple jump in Olympic competition -- and not content with one, she nailed two.
Her efforts helped the Russians win gold in the team event and marked her out as a potential winner of the singles event.
Valieva said it was a "fantastic feeling" to have landed the first women's Olympic quad.
"While I had this burden of responsibility, I came out a winner." she said.
Away from the sport, the International Olympic Committee said Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai had met Olympic chief Thomas Bach at the Beijing Games.
Peng, who sparked global concern in November when she fell silent after alleging that a top Chinese politician had forced her into sex, dined with Bach on Saturday and watched curling.
Peng reappeared in public nearly three weeks after her allegation, and later withdrew it, insisting her online comments had been taken out of context. But fears for her safety and well-being remained.
Separately, in an interview published Monday with French sports daily L'Equipe, Peng repeated her denial.
"I never said anyone had sexually assaulted me in any way," the former world number one doubles player said, calling the allegations "a huge misunderstanding".
Asked why she deleted the social media post containing the allegation, Peng said: "Because I wanted to."
"I don't want the meaning of this post to be twisted anymore. And I don't want any further media hype around it."
The nearly 3,000 athletes in Beijing are cocooned along with tens of thousands of volunteers, support staff and journalists inside a Covid-secure "bubble". Everyone inside must wear face masks and take daily Covid tests.
There have been more than 387 positive cases in the bubble since January 23, according to official figures, among them an unknown number of competitors.