Chloe Kim Defends Olympic Half-pipe Gold Coming Off the ‘Worst Practice’ of Her Life
Snowboarder Chloe Kim followed up her storybook Olympic debut from 2018 with another epic run: On February 10, Kim won half-pipe gold at the Beijing Games, making her the first female snowboarder in history to earn back-to-back titles on the Olympic stage, according to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
While the Olympic half-pipe competition is a best-of-three event, Kim’s first run filled with high-risk, high-reward tricks is what drove her to the top. The 21-year-old executed two 1080s—a trick that includes three full rotations in the air—which helped her earn a score of 94.00 in her first run. (Back in 2018 when she won her first Olympic gold in the event, she became the first woman ever to land back-to-back 1080s.) She finished nearly four points ahead of the next competitor, Queralt Castellet, who earned Spain’s first-ever silver at the Winter Games. Sena Tomita from Japan finished third.
Her epic performance was even more impressive, since it was coming off what she describes as “the worst practice ever,” as she told the IOC.
“I probably landed my run twice when I’m used to landing it eight times, normally, and so that puts you in a weird headspace,” she said. “It felt so inconsistent.”
Landing her first run, though—which she described as a safety run despite its difficulty—took some of the pressure off, and she took the opportunity to try a daring new trick in her next two: a cab 1260 (a trick with three and a half rotations), which according to NBC News, has never been executed successfully in competition by a woman. While she wasn’t able to land them, her first run gave her a high enough score to easily win gold.
“I just learned those pretty recently, and I’ve been doing quite a bit of them, but I haven’t really done them in this half-pipe, so I was curious to see what would happen. Definitely didn’t go my way, but it’s okay,” she said to the IOC. “We’ll try it another day.”
Kim’s gold medal run at the 2022 Beijing Games builds upon her history-making Olympic debut in PyeongChang, when, at the age of 17, she became the youngest athlete to ever win gold in the half-pipe. Widely considered a snowboard prodigy, she entered the Olympics amid huge expectations. After all, just a few years prior, she was the youngest-ever winner at the X Games, when she earned gold in the superpipe at 14.
All of the attention, comments, and criticisms that came with the fame took a hard toll on Kim, and following the 2018 Games, she thought about retiring, according to The New York Times. She took 22 months off from the sport, matriculating at Princeton University with the hopes of being “a normal kid for once.”
Then she felt the pull back to the snow, and returned to competition a year ago. While she hadn’t done a whole lot of competing before the Beijing Games, she won all of them that she entered, according to The New York Times.
Now, a two-time Olympic veteran—and back-to-back gold medalist—she feels more prepared to handle everything that comes with being the face of snowboarding for the U.S.
“Now that I’ve grown up a little more and I understand boundaries, and I have an amazing therapist, I think it’ll make the journey a lot more doable for me,” she said to The New York Times.
While Kim’s run is already in the record books, there’s still more snowboard half-pipe to watch at the 2022 Winter Olympics: On February 11, the men will compete in the half-pipe, where Team USA’s Shaun White will look to close out a legendary career with one more gold. Here’s how to watch the Olympic snowboarding events.
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