Chloe Kim scored her eighth consecutive victory and Chase Josey earned his first world cup win as Team USA claimed three of the six available podium spots Saturday in halfpipe snowboarding in Laax, Switzerland.
With each competition, the question looms a bit larger: Who will challenge Kim for gold next year at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games?
With eight straight wins in the past 11 months, a span that includes two Youth Olympic Games gold medals and two X Games golds, one answer may be that the only person the 16-year-old phenom has to beat is herself. Teammate Arielle Gold was her closest challenger Saturday, using a big third run to take second and give the U.S. women the top two podium spots.
Following the script she wrote on the way to her Toyota U.S. Grand Prix win last month in Copper Mountain, Colorado, Kim hung up a big score on her first run, an 88.25 that was 5.75 points ahead of her closest competitor, teammate Kelly Clark. A 90.50 on her second run locked down the win after China’s Cai Xuetong fell short on her challenges, mustering only an 85.25 on her second run.
Gold, the 2013 halfpipe world champion and a two-time silver medalist at the 2012 Youth Olympic Games, launched past Cai with an 86.50 third run score. Clark, a four-time Olympian who won gold in 2002 and bronze at the last two Games, laid down an 83.50 on her third run to give Team USA three of the top four places.
The win extended Kim’s lead in the world cup standings. Her 2,000 points are 750 ahead of China’s Liu Jiayu, who placed fifth Saturday to give her 1,250 points, 50 ahead of teammate Cai. Gold jumped into fourth place with 800 points.
On the men’s side, Josey blew the top off the competition with a third run score of 97.75 to lead a strong showing by the American men. It was Josey’s third career world cup podium and the second in as many months after a third place at Copper Mountain. Australia’s Scotty James used a 96.50 to pick up the second world cup podium of his career, while Swiss rider Iouri Podladtchikov, the reigning Olympic champion, thrilled the home crowd with a final run 91.75 to claim third.
Team USA’s men took six of the top 11 spots Saturday as 2012 Youth Olympic champion Ben Ferguson finished fifth at 88.25, while Matt Ladley was seventh with an 84.00. Olympian Greg Bretz, Youth Olympic champion Jake Pates and Gabe Ferguson were ninth through 11th, respectively.
The win vaulted Josey to the top of the world cup standings with 1,600 points, while Podladtchikov moves into second with 1,400. Switzerland’s Patrick Burgener slipped from first to third after placing eighth Saturday, his 1,320 points just 20 ahead of James.