Shining bright at Pyeongchang 2018
Too young to compete at Sochi 2014, snowboard sensation Chloe Kim made a stunning Olympic debut at the Youth Olympic Games Lillehammer 2016, winning golds in the halfpipe and slopestyle. Building on her World Cup and X Games success, she backed up her status as a pre-Games favourite at PyeongChang 2018 by winning halfpipe gold in style to become snowboard’s youngest Olympic star at the age of 17 and a famous face in both the Republic of Korea and the USA.
Sochi games come too soon
Born to South Korean parents in Long Beach, California, on 23 April 2000, Kim took up snowboarding at the age of four at Mountain High ski resort, in the south of the “Golden State”. By the time she was six, she was already competing with Team Mountain High, and within another couple of years she was training in the Swiss Alps. After returning to her native California to hone her skills at Mammoth Mountain, she earned a place on the US snowboard team, an achievement that fired her dreams of appearing at the Olympic Winter Games. While her results were good enough to have secured her a trip to Sochi 2014, at only 13 she was too young to compete in the Games just yet. To prove what she was capable of, nevertheless, she won superpipe silver at the 2014 X Games in Aspen.
Turning it on in Lillehammer
An English, Korean and French speaker, the multi-talented Kim scored her first major international superpipe victory at the 2015 X Games and retained the title in some style the following year, scoring 95 points to win by a distance from her compatriot Arielle Gold.
Kim then limbered up for Lillehammer 2016 by becoming the first woman to land back-to-back 1080s in a snowboarding competition, a feat she achieved at the US Snowboarding Grand Prix at Park City that February.
Continuing her stellar form at the YOG, the 15-year-old American lit up Oslo’s Vinterpark with three stunning runs in the halfpipe, scoring an amazing 96.5 points on her final run to secure her first Olympic gold. Five days later at Hafjell Freepark, she produced a similarly superlative performance in the slopestyle to win a second gold by some margin from the rest of the field.
A dream come true
“I’m just so stoked I was able to put down all those crazy runs that I always dreamed of when I was younger,” said the victorious Kim, who was also the USA’s flag bearer in Lillehammer. “I literally set a goal for myself when I was 10; I was like, ‘I want to be the first girl to do back-to-back (1080s), I want to go to the X Games.’ Even though it was unrealistic when I was younger, it was still a goal for my career and just being able to accomplish my little-girl dreams is crazy. It’s like getting a pony.” Bolstered by her experience at the YOG, Kim turned her attention to qualifying for PyeongChang 2018.
World cup and X Games glory
Kim maintained her excellent form in the World Cup, recording five wins, two second places and never finishing lower than fourth to claim the halfpipe crystal globe in the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons. She also won X Games superpipe events in Aspen in 2016 and 2018 and in Oslo in 2016, all of which helped increase expectation ahead of her arrival at PyeongChang 2018, where she was cheered on by her family and a crowd intent on giving the 17-year-old their full support.
A dream run
Suitably inspired, Kim became the second athlete born in 2000 to win an Olympic Winter Games gold medal, after her compatriot Redmond Gerard. Dominating a halfpipe competition held in bright sunshine at the Phoenix Snowpark, the gifted US rider showcased her full range of skills in totalling 93.25 points for her first run, which gave her a comfortable lead.
After falling on her second run, Kim saved her very best for her third and final descent, having already secured the gold, landing two 1080s in a row, a first at the Winter Games. “I didn’t want to leave with the gold knowing that I could have done better. I wanted to try and do back-to-back 1080s,” she said after earning a stunning score of 98.25. In becoming Olympic snowboard’s youngest ever champion, and doing so in the best possible style, the fearless Kim cemented her star status, which now extends far beyond the Republic of Korea and the USA.