Southern California’s Chloe Kim Wins Gold in Halfpipe at Pyeongchang Olympics

Chloe Kim, 17, won her first Olympic gold medal in halfpipe with a near perfect score of 98.25 at the Phoenix Snow Park in Pyeongchang, South Korea on Tuesday.

Chloe Kim is seen at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Phoenix Snow Park on Feb. 12, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Credit: David Ramos/Getty Images)

Chloe Kim is seen at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Phoenix Snow Park on Feb. 12, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Credit: David Ramos/Getty Images)

The Californian teenager was already a slopestyle and halfpipe phenomenon, redefining the boundaries of her sport while most of her friends are finishing high school.

When she was 15, Kim became the first female snowboarder in history to land back-to-back 1080 degree spins in competition, at the US Snowboarding Grand Prix in February 2016.

That combination gave her a perfect score of 100, a feat only otherwise achieved by the legendary Shaun White.

In Monday’s qualifying runs, Kim scored 91.50 — nearly four points better than any of her rivals — in a performance that made her a favorite in Tuesday’s women’s halfpipe final.

In short, though her career is only just beginning, Kim is already well on the way to becoming a legend of her sport. And she doesn’t just have the hopes of one nation resting on her shoulders.

“It’s very special,” Kim told CNN. “I feel like I have this unique opportunity to represent both Korea and the US.

“Everyone’s really happy and I think this is the best scenario ever. At the end of the day, I’m so grateful that I get to be out here and represent the US in the country that my family came from. It’s a very big blessing.”

A Korean-American icon
Back in 1982, Kim’s father Jong Jin emigrated from South Korea to the US as a young man with big ambitions.

It was a desire to lure his wife Boran Yun Kim onto the slopes that gave the young snowboarding prodigy her first experience of the sport.

“He wanted my mom to go with him,” Chloe explained. “So he took me as bait.”

Aged just four at the time and at best ambivalent about the cold, it wasn’t long before Chloe was bombing down the mountain on her $25 board, leaving her parents in her tracks.

By the age of six she was competing in junior competitions around the US. By the time she reached 10, Jong Jin had quit his job to facilitate her development full-time.

“What would happen is that he would carry me out of bed,” Chloe recalled in 2016. “I would wake up in a new spot every time without even knowing what happened.”

How those long early morning drives to California’s Mammoth Mountain have paid off.

Already a four-time X Games SuperPipe champion, Kim has traveled to her first ever Olympic Games among the favorites for the gold medal. It is also something of a homecoming.

“I definitely have a lot of Korean-American fans which is amazing,” Kim tells CNN, having inspired South Korean children some 5,000 miles away to follow in her footsteps.

“I think my family are just so excited,” she adds. “My grandma is in Korea. I have two aunts and three cousins in Korea as well.

“But I love all my fans. I love meeting them. I’m so happy to have all this support from everyone around the world and I’m forever thankful for all of them.”