OSLO, Norway -- Chloe Kim compared the past three weeks of her life to getting a pony, a far-fetched dream of many young girls; a pipe dream, if you will.
Unlike most girls, Kim’s childhood dreams revolved around becoming a pioneer in halfpipe snowboarding, and she has done that in spades.
After becoming the first winter athlete to win two X Games gold medals before 16 and completing the first-ever back-to-back 1080s by a female snowboarder, Kim won the women’s halfpipe gold medal Sunday morning at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Oslo, Norway.
Dropping into the pipe 12th in a field of 17 riders, Kim secured her win from the start, scoring 94.25 in her first of three runs, seven points ahead of the next-best athlete that run. She used her next two runs to build upon that success and find even more air.
“I just kept doing the same run, but I felt like I was slowly going bigger and bigger as it was going on,” Kim said. “My first run was super swirly and stuff, but after landing it I was a little more confident going into the second and third.”
Kim’s second run scored 96.50, followed by 96.25 on her third. Australia’s Emily Arthur claimed silver with a score of 90.00 from her second run, while Yu-rim Jeong of South Korea earned 84.50 on her second run to secure the bronze.
Kim’s win made her the first U.S. woman to win Youth Olympic snowboarding gold, yet another first in her illustrious career. She also earned the highest snowboarding score ever awarded in Youth Olympic history.
Her three-week stint atop the podium is the culmination of goals she set for herself at age 10.
“I’m just so stoked I was able to put down all those crazy runs that I’ve always dreamed of when I was younger” she said. “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.”
Winning a gold medal wasn’t the only high of Kim’s Youth Olympic experience. Kim carried the U.S. flag into Friday’s Opening Ceremony, an experience she described as “crazy. I was hoping I didn’t fall.”
The teen snowboarding sensation said her experience at the Winter Youth Olympic Games has furthered her drive to qualify for the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games in two years. Kim would have qualified for the Sochi Games two years ago, but at 13 she was too young.
Kim will hope to qualify for the Olympics with longtime idol and snowboarding legend Kelly Clark, a four-time Olympian and three-time medalist, with whom she has battled for the top spot on the podium over the past few years. Though Kim has found herself on top lately, the two do not view it as a rivalry.
“Me and Kelly always talk about how we don’t like the word rivalry or competition because we don’t go into contests thinking about how we’re going to beat each other,” Kim explained. “It’s about doing better than you’ve done in the past. We set goals for ourselves and not trying to beat someone else.
“When I landed the back-to-back 10s, Kelly was the first person to come up to me and congratulate me. It’s awesome to see that and I think it’s changed me so much as a person. It definitely makes me feel a lot better and it lifts a huge weight off of your shoulders when you don’t think about who you have to beat.”
With Kim at the helm of the U.S. women’s snowboarding program, the future of the men’s team was also on full display in Oslo.
Seventeen-year-old Jake Pates struck gold while teammate and friend Nik Baden, 18, claimed silver.
Like Kim, Pates’ consistent runs proved he was top dog in the competition. His first run would prove to be his winning run, as he scored a 93.00. His next run came close with 92.00 points, before he coasted through his final run, knowing the victory was his.
Baden landed an impressive 83.25 to start with, before faltering for a 50.50 in his second run. Then, to ensure his spot on the podium, Baden put down his winning run of 85.25. Slovenia’s Tit Stante rounded out the podium with 80.25 points, earned in his final run.
Pates’ Youth Olympic medal allowed him to accomplish a dream of his own: be like Ben Ferguson. Ferguson, whom Pates has looked up to for much of his nine-year career, won halfpipe gold for the U.S. at the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in 2012 and has continued to excel in the sport to this day, earning silver two weeks ago at X Games.
“It’s definitely been a goal of mine and it’s pretty amazing to follow in his footsteps,” Pates said of matching Ferguson’s feat. “He’s my idol.”
Amy Pates, Jake’s mother, made the trek to Norway with his sister, Charlie Sue, to cheer on their favorite snowboarder. They quickly learned their 12-day trip was well worth the cost.
“It’s scary to watch, but so exciting,” Amy said. “I think I got tears in my eyes when the national anthem came on. I’m just so proud of him and it’s just so memorable.”
While Pates had his sights set on a Youth Olympic halfpipe gold medal for four years, Baden’s silver medal surprised even him.
The 2015 X Games finalist is a slopestyle specialist and said he has not competed in halfpipe for a few years. That changed when he arrived in Oslo. All snowboarders at the Games were given the opportunity to compete in both disciplines, and it’s one that paid off for Baden.
After only a few days of training in halfpipe, Baden was able to put down two of the night’s best runs and ensure himself the silver medal.
“It went way better than I was expecting,” Baden said. “Definitely surprised myself, so that was really cool. I had done some stuff in practice and then, yeah I was really happy to be able to do it here in the contest.”
Kim and Pates’ gold medals, combined with that of alpine skier River Radamus won Saturday, surpassed the two golds Team USA won at the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in 2012.
All three U.S. athletes will compete in slopestyle on Feb. 19-20, along with Hailey Langland who won X Games bronze last month.