It only took Chloe Kim one run to secure Olympic Gold — then she went one better. The 17-year-old American had already done enough to win the Women’s Half Pipe before she even started her final attempt, only to knock it out of the park with a near-perfect score of 98.25.
She ran the gauntlet of TV interviews and negotiated the maze of reporters with equanimity. Fans wanted a piece of the action too, cranking necks, standing on tip-toe, sticking their smartphones in the air. Any sort of picture would do.
The chaos was such that minutes before Kim — the youngest female Olympic gold medalist on snow — was to tearfully stand atop the podium, her mother was lost in the crowd, left pleading to be let through a security check point.
Winter Olympics Day Four
The first female snowboarder in history to land back-to-back 1080 degree spins in competition — when she was just 15 — the four-time X-Games gold medalist is not an unknown and is used to being in the spotlight.
But on a day when the sun’s glare dazzled off the pristine snow, Kim’s star shone as brightly as any of sport’s biggest names: she had entered a whole new world.
Kim has maintained a posture of supreme coolness throughout the competition — tweeting that she wanted ice cream and was “hangry” after missing breakfast on medals day — but as she admitted later, she was on the verge of tears before starting her third and final run.
The gold secured, she performed three spins on the left side of the 22 foot (6.71 meter) half pipe to become the first woman to land consecutive 1080s in the Olympics.
The crowd gasped. Members of Kim’s family whooped and hollered. Overcome with emotion, Kim’s sister could not speak. US flags were raised towards the sky. It was spellbinding.
Her final score of 98.25 was 8.5 points clear of Chinese silver medalist Liu Jiayu, whose performance would have been hard to beat in normal circumstances.
America’s 17-year-old snowboarding sensation
‘This one’s for you grans’
Kim is the daughter of South Korean immigrants to California, and she dedicated Tuesday’s performance to her grandmother, who was in Pyeongchang to watch her in person for the first time.
“I actually found out during the second run that she was at the bottom and I thought ‘this one’s for you grans.’ I can’t wait to go shopping with her,” Kim told reporters.
The weight of expectation lifted, the teenage trailblazer — talented enough but too young to compete under international rules at Sochi four years ago — was relaxed enough to take selfies with compatriot and bronze medalist Arielle Gold before a room full of journalists and pretended to sing into the mic as one of her answers were translated.
She made peace signs to her father, Jong Jin Kim, who reciprocated from the back of the room, shaking his head and laughing at his daughter’s calm.
The pressure had melted away for both of them.
“I was very stressed because everyone was saying Chloe was going to win gold but no one knows the result — that I cannot control,” he told CNN Sport.
“Now I’m happy, all the stress is gone. I’m the dad of an Olympic gold medalist, not many people have this kind of feeling.”
Kim has said she often cries when speaking about her father who emigrated to the US in 1982 with $800 in cash. He has had a starring role in his daughter’s success.
The elder Kim gave up his job so his youngest daughter’s jaw-dropping talent could blossom. He would carry her from her bed to the car and drive from La Palma in California to Mammoth Mountain, 5.5 hours away.
“Everybody does hard work for their kid, but I thank my daughter because she achieved the result,” he said. “She’s a good kid. I tell her to be humble, that this is from hard work, that you weren’t born this way.”
Also watching on as her daughter answered question after question, amazed by the attention, was Kim’s mum. There has already been a delightful upshot to her daughter’s Olympic feat, she admitted — more Instagram followers for herself.
“My mum keeps asking me to post pictures of her so she can get more followers. We definitely have fun with it,” said Kim, adding her Twitter followers have doubled since the Games began.
Thousands on social media have already congratulated the teenager, while her first Twitter post on becoming Olympic champion has received nearly 25,000 likes.
Her coronation complete, more fans will surely follow during what is expected to be a long reign.