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In the curve of Oslo Vinterpark Halfpipe, the USA’s Chloe Kim takes her shot at securing ladies’ halfpipe gold at the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
The edges of her snowboard cut into the slope, as velocity propels her up the curve and into the air for two, maybe three, seconds of air. Her body spins into a frontside 540, landing on the icy surface before carving into another run.
In a small office set at the bottom of the hill, a team of judges – coaches, former competitors and snowboard enthusiasts - study the adrenaline-primed action ahead. With every trick they make notes and mark scores. From this hub, every rider here is judged on amplitude, technical difficulty, creativity and landings.
Within this framework Kim scores an impressive overall score of 96.50, the judges having taken the best mark from her three runs. Her winning run included one McTwist indy and a frontside 720 Lien. It’s enough to claim gold.
“She’s competing on the highest levels,” said head judge, Ales Silec after Kim’s winning effort. “And she’s winning at the highest levels with older competitors who are much more experienced. I’m a judge so I can’t say she’s [the best in the world], but she’s really good.”
For Kim, her Youth Olympic gold marked yet another impressive victory. Already a back-to-back gold medal winner in the X Games, victory here - ahead of silver medallist, Australian Emily Arthur, and Yu-Rim Jeong of Korea (bronze) - seemed like another step in the 15 year-old’s inexorable rise to stardom.
Australia's Emily Arthur, the USA's Chloe Kim and Korea's Jeong Yu-rim (left to right) on the medal podium after the ladies' snowboard halfpipe final at Oslo Vinterpark Halfpipe. Photo: YIS / IOC Jon Buckle
“I didn’t really know about the Olympic Games when I first started riding, but it seemed like a cool thing to do,” she said afterwards. “Now I can’t wait to compete in the next one.”
“I couldn’t be here without my parents. I feel like my mum was scared when she first sent me off to the mountain, she was like, ‘What am I getting my baby into?’ But my dad was always the one who was steering me in the right direction.”
For Kim, her next challenge is to find a place to store yet another medal in a rapidly expanding collection. “I have a really nice trophy stash in LA, but it’s slowly filling up,” she said. “I might need to add another floor to that.”
A USA double was later secured with Jake Pates gold-medal performance in the men’s snowboard halfpipe. The 17-year-old led from the front, securing victory with his first run, ahead of fellow countryman, Nikolas Baden and bronze medallist, Tit Stante of Slovenia. His final effort – the last of the morning – was more like a victory lap. “That was amazing,” he said. “I had the safety of the podium, so I just dropped in and did a few slashes. I had a lot of fun with it. “Now I’m gonna get my carbo load up and maybe go to the gym. I’m so excited.”
Written by YIS / IOC MATT ALLEN