Chloe Kim dominates in snowboard halfpipe to win Olympic gold
The expectations placed upon Chloe Kim could not have been any higher entering the PyeongChang Olympics. But the 17-year-old delivered on the biggest stage, earning her first Olympic gold medal in women's snowboard halfpipe on Tuesday morning in South Korea.
Kim set the bar extremely high on her first run, landing a backside air, frontside 1080, cab 720, frontside 900, McTwist and frontside inverted 720.
That run scored her a 93.75 and gave her a huge lead over the rest of the field.
Over the final two runs, the rest of the field did their best to match Kim, with many of the women going for broke and attempting to land the frontside 1080 — currently one of the most progressive tricks in women's halfpipe.
A few women successfully landed the trick, but none could match Kim's score.
By the time her final run came around, the gold medal was secure and Kim was free to take a victory lap. Instead, she attempted to add an exclamation point by landing her most technical sequence of tricks — the back-to-back 1080s.
That combination of a frontside 1080 into a cab 1080 in the middle of her run had bedeviled Kim earlier in the contest. She had attempted it on her second run but fell on the second 1080 attempt.
On her victory lap though, Kim stomped both of her 1080s, then landed the rest of her run. The final score from the judges: 98.25. And with that, Kim was officially the new Olympic champion.
"I was like tearing up and wanted to cry, but I just knew I wasn't going to be happy, even if I went home with the gold, if I knew I could do better," Kim said of her decision to attempt the back-to-back 1080s. "So that third run was really just to prove to myself that I deserved it and did everything I could. I'm so happy."
Kim's been destined for greatness for quite some time. She was too young to compete at the Olympics four years ago despite already being one of the world's best snowboarders.
Although she was disappointed at the time, she now thinks it was for the best.
"Now that I think about it, I'm really glad I wasn't able to go," Kim told NBC Olympics last year. "I don't think I would've been able to take it, to handle the pressure. Emotionally I don't think I was ready."
Leading up to these Olympics, Kim has been the subject of numerous features in the media. She's also picked up a lot of sponsors.
That's a lot of pressure for a girl who a girl who considers herself to be just a normal teenager from California. Albeit one who now has an Olympic gold medal.
But if there were any nerves, you wouldn't be able to tell from her Twitter account. A few days ago, there was a tweet about churros. During the qualifying round, there was a tweet about ice cream. Today during the final, in between her runs, a tweet about breakfast sandwiches.
If those tweets haven't already increased her social media following significantly, a gold medal certainly will.
Kim was the top rider on a very strong U.S. team which had a realistic chance to sweep the podium.
China's Liu Jiayu stopped it from becoming reality though. With a score of 89.75 on her second run, the three-time Olympian cracked the podium and earned a silver medal. Her previous best finish at the Olympics was fourth place in 2010.
The U.S. did end up with the bronze medal thanks to Arielle Gold, who finished third with an 85.75 on the strength of a final run which included the frontside 1080.
In the process of cracking the top three, Gold bumped Kelly Clark out of podium position. Clark responded with an 83.50 on her last run but ended up in fourth place.
In Clark's five Olympic appearances, she now has one gold medal, two bronze medals and two fourth-place finishes.
While Clark has lots of experience when it comes to the Olympics, Gold has been getting her first taste of actual competition this week. She was a member of the U.S. Olympic halfpipe team four years ago in Sochi, but she did not get a chance to compete after injuring her shoulder in practice before the competition.
The other member of Team USA in this competition, Maddie Mastro, was considered a medal conteder but was unable to land the frontside 1080 in any of her runs and finished 12th.
With the victory, Kim has become the youngest female medalist in Olympic snowboarding history at the age of 17.
Kim's victory also comes on the heels of gold medal wins in slopestyle from U.S. teammates Red Gerard (who is also 17) and Jamie Anderson. The U.S. has now won gold in every snowboard competition so far at the 2018 Winter Olympics, and snowboarders have accounted for all three of Team USA's gold medals up to this point.
As if that wasn't enough, Kim's win produced the 99th gold medal all-time for the U.S. at the Winter Olympics.
"I need to go home and process everything and I'll probably bawl my eyes out some more," Kim said afterward, "but this has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl, so just to be here and to be able to do it when it mattered feels amazing."
Gold: Chloe Kim (USA), 98.25
Silver: Liu Jiayu (CHN), 89.75
Bronze: Arielle Gold (USA), 85.75
4. Kelly Clark (USA), 83.50
5. Cai Xuetong (CHN), 76.50
6. Haruna Matsumoto (JPN), 70.00
7. Queralt Castellet (ESP), 67.75
8. Sena Tomita (JPN), 65.25
9. Mirabelle Thovex (FRA), 63.00
10. Sophie Rodriguez (FRA), 50.50
11. Emily Arthur (AUS), 48.25
12. Maddie Mastro (USA), 14.00
NBCOlympics.com will be streaming every round of every competition live online. Here's how to watch all upcoming live streams for snowboard halfpipe.
Men's Qualifying: Monday, Feb. 12, 11:00 p.m. ET
Men's Final: Tuesday, Feb. 13, 8:30 p.m. ET