Chloe Kim blew away the field and the crowd at the Pyeongchang Games in South Korea, winning the gold medal in the women’s snowboard half-pipe. The win ticks another box in the career of Kim, who at 17 is already regarded as one of the best snowboarders in U.S. history.
Kim won with a score of 98.25, in a competition that never saw her trail another snowboarder. Her fellow American Arielle Gold won bronze, and Kelly Clark narrowly missed the podium after sitting in third place for two runs.
“I was tearing up, I wanted to cry,” Kim said of her mindset when she began her third run. “But I didn’t.”
Kim wowed from the start, putting together complicated tricks to begin her first run and leading the field. That got her a 93.75 — good enough to win. But after falling on the third trick of her second run, Kim showed why she’s regarded as the best in the world, flirting with a perfect score in the third run.
Her first-run score would have brought her the gold, but Kim wasn’t satisfied. She wanted to put down a run that met her expectations, she said.
The snowboarder also said that between her second and third runs, she realized that her grandmother — who had never seen her compete — had traveled from Seoul to Pyeongchang watch her.
“This one’s for gram,” Kim recalled thinking, provoking a round of “Awwws” in the post-competition news conference.
Kim also tallied the music she listened to. First run: “Paparazzi” by Lady Gaga; for her third, she said, it was “MotorSport,” by Migos, Cardi B, and Nicki Minaj.
Afterwards, Kim was asked about the practice of handing winning athletes a stuffed mascot toy rather than a medal after they’ve won. The medal ceremonies at these Winter Games have been held hours after some events.
“I mean, mascot’s really cute,” Kim said. “But just standing on top of the podium” was a special feeling, she added.
China’s Jiayu Liu mounted a challenge to Kim, but it wasn’t quite enough, and she won silver with a high score of 89.75 from her three runs. She secured her spot with a strong second run that had perfect pacing and control in the halfpipe at Phoenix Snow Park.
After a fall like Kim’s in the second run — she slid on her rear after a landing — most snowboarders zig-zag down the half-pipe; some don’t wait for their scores. But Kim pulled a trick at the bottom of her run, suggesting that she means it when she says that she snowboards not to win, but for fun.
All the same, it seems like she’ll keep winning.
Kim has been aiming at the Olympics for a long time. Back in 2014, she couldn’t go to Sochi because she was too young.
“When I couldn’t make the team in Sochi due to my age – it felt like such a long journey,” she said after Monday’s qualifying runs, according to a transcript from the Olympics’ news service. “You know, going from 13 to 17 is such a big time gap. But at the end of the day, I’m here — and I’m so happy.”
Two years ago, Kim became the first woman to land back-to-back 1080 tricks in competition. She’s won big on the World Cup circuit, and at the X Games.
Now she has an Olympic gold medal, in the half-pipe event that was run Tuesday morning in Pyeongchang – that’s Monday night in the U.S.
Her strong qualifying runs meant that Kim had the luxury of going last in the field of 12 snowboarders at Phoenix Snow Park.
Three other Americans joined Kim in the final: Gold, Clark, and Maddie Mastro. For Clark, 34, this was a chance to add to her medal collection – she already has a gold from Salt Lake City in 2002 and bronzes from Vancouver and Sochi.
Kim was not quite two years old when Clark won her first Olympic gold medal – a testament both to Kim’s precociousness and Clark’s talent and resolve.
Gold said it was “bittersweet” to knock Clark out of third place, saying that in addition to admiring Clark as a teammate and athlete, “She’s someone I’ve looked up to ever since I started snowboarding.”
The only thing that could possibly stop Kim’s drive to the podium, it seemed as Tuesday’s event loomed, was the wind — bad conditions had shortened the women’s snowboard slopestyle event one day earlier, and athletes said their performances were affected by the strong gusts. But the weather cooperated, with a clear and sunny sky, moderately cold temperature, and light winds.
In Monday’s two qualifying runs, Kim dominated. She was the only athlete to post scores above 90 points, and one run in particular was a string of perfectly executed tricks. But she still found time to tweet about wanting ice cream.
“Could be down for some ice cream rn,” Kim said on Twitter in the midst of the action.
Later, she told reporters simply, “I want my ice cream.”
Regular mortals are often fascinated by what elite athletes eat to fuel their bodies as they try to do what no one else can. In Pyeongchang, Kim also sent out a word of advice on Monday, about what to eat when you’re nervous.
After admitting she was nervous about the qualifying runs, Kim said, “I also had two churros today and they were pretty bomb so if you ever get nervous go eat a churro.”
By the time Tuesday rolled around, it was all focus.
“Let’s do this thing!” Kim tweeted early this morning.
Chloe Kim’s parents are originally from Seoul, and she said she’s been reconnecting with relatives here in Pyeongchang. Wither her new medal, the celebration will be a family affair. She might even get that ice cream.
Although after her win, Kim said she was starving: “I really want like a burger and some fries, maybe some Hawaiian pizza.”