AMERICAN teenager Chloe Kim has confirmed her arrival as snowboarding’s new megastar, leaving the world in awe with an utterly dominant display to claim Winter Olympic gold.
The 17-year-old from Torrance, California became the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding medal, soaring to a victory four years in the making in the PyeongChang women’s halfpipe final on Tuesday.
Kim put up a score of 93.75 on the first of her three finals runs and then bettered it with a near-perfect 98.75 on a final run that continued back-to-back 1080s, among the most difficult manoeuvres in snowboarding.
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“I’m a little overwhelmed,” Kim said. “I don’t really know what’s happening and I’m actually feeling a little anxious right now.
“There was a lot of pressure,” added Kim, who was so good at 13 she might have won gold in Sochi — but she was too young to compete.
“You wait for four years and it’s pretty nerve-wracking. There definitely was a lot of hype but I’m proud of how I was able to handle the pressure today.”
The brilliant teenager had been touted as a star of the Games because of her prodigious talent, ever-ready smile and Korean heritage.
Tuesday’s performance left nobody in doubt of her genuine star power, with many predicting fame, riches and anointing her as female snowboarding’s answer to legendary US men’s star Shaun White.
Liu Jiayu took silver with an 89.75 to become the first Chinese snowboarder to medal at the Olympics.
American Arielle Gold, who pondered retirement last summer, edged teammate and three-time Olympic medallist Kelly Clark for bronze.
Australian Emily Arthur finished 11th, suffering a nasty fall on her final run that left her mouth bloodied.
If Kim’s performance wasn’t impressive enough, she revealed on social media it came on virtually an empty stomach — showing her age by even taking to Twitter between her brilliant runs.
Kim’s parents were born in South Korea and moved to the United States, putting their daughter in an interesting position heading into her first Olympics.
While she understands the urge to build a narrative around her that turns her into a connective tissue of sorts between the host country and the one she calls home, it’s one she has politely sidestepped.
She views herself as just a kid from Southern California who likes music, the mall, ice cream and, oh, by the way, putting down the kind of gravity-escaping, physics challenging runs that have made her a dominant force in her sport.
Kim would have made the Olympic team with ease four years ago, only to have the calendar get in the way. She was 13 at the time, too young to make the trip to Russia. She entered the quadrennium between the games with the kind of expectations reserved for the Whites of the snowboarding world. She has exceeded every one.
Standing atop the hill at calm and brilliant Phoenix Snow Park — a stark contrast to the windy mess that turned the women’s slopestyle final into an ugly, borderline unsafe and crash-filled mess 24 hours earlier — Kim looked down at the crowd that included her parents, three sisters, three aunts, two cousins and her grandmother Moon Jung and proceeded to waste little time while turning the final into a global coming-out party.
She drilled her opening set, throwing in a 1080 – basically, three twists high above the pipe – before following it with a pair of flips (or “corks”).
Kim celebrated at the end, pumping her fists as “USA!” “USA!” chants rained down. When her score flashed, she clasped her hands atop her head and drank in the moment.