PARK CITY, Utah – Every snowboarder chases perfection. Chloe Kim obtained that goal on a historic final run Saturday afternoon.
The 15-year-old snowboarder became the first woman to complete back-to-back 1080-degree rotations in her final run down the halfpipe at the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix, a world cup event. It gave Kim a perfect score of 100 and clinched another huge victory for the rising star, who will next compete at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway.
Kim’s perfect score of 100 is the first for a female snowboarder. Shaun White scored the first 100 by a male rider at the 2012 Winter X Games when he was the first to land back-to-back double cork 1260s.
“I don’t know if anything can top today,” Kim said.
Team USA swept the podium in the women’s halfpipe in Park City. Maddie Mastro finished second behind Kim with 92.00 points. Three-time Olympic medalist Kelly Clark scored 89.25 to place third.
Kim put herself in a position to make history with a strong first run in the three-run final. She scored 96.50 her first time down the pipe. It was more than enough to win. That didn’t stop Kim from approaching both of her subsequent runs with equal energy and aggressiveness.
Laying down back-to-back 1080s wasn’t in her original plan for her third and final run. When Kim noticed how clean she was executing the rotation, however, and how much speed she picked up on the trick, she decided to let it rip.
She said she realized after her first run that she could go all out the rest of the way.
“Putting down a good first run gave me two more runs to try and put that down,” Kim said. “I was really stoked I was able to land a good clean first run so that I could try that.”
Making history seems to be second nature to Kim. She keeps finding new ways to raise the bar for herself and other snowboarders.
Kim earned podium spots at the Dew Tour, the X Games and the US Open during her breakout season in 2014. She followed that up by claiming a gold medal in the superpipe at the 2015 Winter X Games. At the time, Kim was the youngest competitor to become a gold medalist in a Winter X Games event. She successfully defended that superpipe title by claiming her second consecutive gold medal at the 2016 Winter X Games last weekend.
Now Kim can add a historic winning run to her snowboarding resume.
“I’m really looking forward to the future,” Kim said. “It’s a huge step for women’s snowboarding and I’m just so thankful I could be a part of that progression.”
The women’s halfpipe competition in Lillehammer is Feb. 14.
Matt Ladley claimed the top podium spot in the men’s halfpipe final. Ladley posted a 95.50 on his second run to clinch the win. Japan claimed the other two podium spots. Ryo Aono finished second with a score of 92.00. Naito Ando took third with a 90.50. Both Aono and Ando posted their best scores on their final runs to deny Team USA a podium sweep in both races.
Jake Pates, who will also compete at the Youth Olympics in Lillehammer, was fifth with a score of 88.00, and two-time U.S. Olympian Greg Bretz was sixth after an 87.75.
Ladley did not have to sweat the outcome after putting together back-to-back strong runs on his first two runs. He pulled off impressive tricks on both runs. More importantly for Ladley, he executed his landings and riding down the halfpipe equally well.
The second run came together even better than how he visualized it before the start.
“That’s probably one of the best runs I’ve ever done, riding-wise,” Ladley said. “I like to look at the riding as much as I look at the tricks and that was fun for me. I landed high and I went big and that’s really what I like to do.”
For Ladley, riding clean is just as important as executing a crowd-pleasing trick. That’s one reason why he stayed consistent in his runs while several competitors wiped out and crashed on at least one of three runs.
“Everybody’s got their own opinion,” Ladley said. “My opinion is that everything matters inside the halfpipe as well as when you’re going out of it.”
This marks the second big win in as many weeks for Ladley. He claimed a gold medal in the men’s superpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games after the event was shortened to one run because of snow.
John Coon is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.