Gold medalist Chloe Kim and bronze medalist Arielle Gold pose at the victory ceremony for the Snowboard women's halfpipe final at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 13, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea.
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – Chloe Kim touched the sky in the land of her parents’ birth, winning the Olympic gold medal in the women’s halfpipe snowboarding competition Tuesday.
“It’s kind of a crazy coincidence that my first Olympics is the country my parents came from,” said Kim, who is from Torrance, California.
The 17-year-old grabbed the gold at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 two years after winning the halfpipe at the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lillehammer 2016. She is the youngest Olympic halfpipe medalist and second-youngest snowboarding medalist by a few months behind Team USA’s Red Gerard, who won slopestyle earlier in the Games.
“This is the best outcome I could ever ask for,” Kim said. “It’s such a long journey. Going home with the gold is amazing.”
Four years ago, Kim was too young to compete at the Sochi Games, two years shy of minimum age of 15.
When she finally made her Olympic debut, she stomped it. Kim rode to a formidable 93.75 points on her first run at Phoenix Snow Park, which would have held up, but she powered down the pipe for 98.25 on her final run. Kim sat down on her second run for 41.50, her only subpar run in two days.
In the qualifying Monday, Kim was the only rider to surpass 90 points, with 91.50 on her first run and 95.50 on her second.
“My first goal was to land all of my runs here,” Kim said, “but I kind of messed that up on my second run today, so I’m kind of annoyed. But I got redemption on the third and I’m so excited.”
Only the best of the three runs counts.
Jiayu Liu of China won the silver with three strong runs, scoring a best of 89.75 on her second.
Two-time Olympian Arielle Gold of Team USA struck bronze on her third run, knocking five-time Olympian Kelly Clark out of the medals.
“It was definitely a bittersweet position to be in when it was between me and Kelly for that bronze medal position,” Gold said, noting that she looked up to Clark.
Clark, a three-time Olympic medalist and 2002 champion, had one more chance when Gold passed her. Her third run was her best at 83.50, but it wasn’t enough and she placed fourth. Maddie Mastro had a bad day, finishing last among 12 riders with 14.00 points.
“Tricks have changed a lot,” Clark said. “If I did the run that I won with in Salt Lake City, I wouldn’t even make a final today.”
Clark’s Olympic resume now includes one gold medal, two bronzes and two fourth-place finishes.
Wearing the No. 1 bib, Kim pumped her fists and laughed as she completed her successful first run. She was glum after the second and jubilant following the third run in which the crowd gasped at every trick.
That included a cheering section of family – both American and Korean – including Kim’s grandmother from Seoul, who had never seen her compete.
“I found out after second run she was at the bottom,” Kim said, “and I said, ‘This one’s for Grams.’ I hope she enjoyed watching it and I can’t wait to go shopping with her.”
Because Kim went last in each run, she already knew she was Olympic champion when she stood at the top of the pipe for her final run. But she still wanted to go bigger and better.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be completely satisfied taking home the gold and knowing I could have done better,” she said. “The third run was just for me, to show myself that I could do it and put down the best run I could do.”
After listening to “MotorSport” by Migos, Cardi B and Nicki Minaj, Kim was ready.
She started with a “method,” a trick that involves grabbing the snowboard. “It’s kind of hard,” Kim said. “Last year that’s what I was falling on every contest. I’m stoked I got that.”
Then she really went for it. Kim’s back-to-back “10s” or 1080s, which are three full twists, one front and the other “cab,” or backwards, which adds to the difficulty.
When it was all over, she cried. “Those tears are obviously tears of joy,” Kim said. “My dad didn’t cry which I don’t get…My mom cried, my sister was bawling her eyes out on my hair. We’re all excited to be here together. It’s such an amazing experience. I’m happy to have done that with the support of all my family members.”
Her father quit his job to travel with her around the world.
“Dang, I hate talking about my dad when he’s there because he gets pretty cocky,” he said of her father, who was in the back of the press conference room. “Now I’m going to hear that for three more years, ‘I remember how you talked about me in press conference.’ My dad has definitely sacrificed a lot for me. I don’t know if I could do that if I was in his shoes, quit work and travel with our kid full time, leave your life behind.”
They were chasing her dream, and they realized it. To do it in the country of her heritage made it that much more meaningful.
Kim said she grew up in a very Korean environment and always ate Korean food.
“My parents taught me Korean songs that I don’t know any more,” she said. “I went to school in America. I feel like I grew up with both cultures, so that’s a really cool experience. I’m more open-minded toward other people and very accepting.”
While No. 4 is a superstitious number in Korea, Kim said it’s her lucky number. She just won her fourth X Games gold medal.
Kim said she’s more nervous for the qualifications than the finals. After Monday’s preliminaries, she said she was going to reward herself with ice cream. “I really like vanilla Swiss almond,” she said, “but I’ll be OK with a mango sorbet.”
After winning the gold, she was in the mood for “a burger and some fries, maybe some Hawaiian pizza. Or pepperoni, I’ll take anything.”
Kim tweeted about her hankering for ice cream, and it was liked by almost 21,000 people. Her social media has taken off during the Games.
“My twitter’s been blowing up because of the tweets that I tweeted yesterday,” she said.
She said her Instagram followers grew from 164,000 to almost 350,000 “which is insane.”
“I’ve just been on my phone a lot of looking at social media, just trying to distract myself,” Kim said. “When I get drug tested I’ll be doing the same thing, because I get nervous when I am getting drug tested because there is a stranger watching me go to the bathroom.”
But after that Olympic necessity, Kim posted on Instagram how she felt. “Trying to think of a caption is actually impossible but all I can say is thank you to everyone who's been there for me since the beginning. I am so grateful to be surrounded by people I love with all my heart and so thankful for my family and their never ending love and support. Glad I could bring home the Gold!!”