Rejuvenated after taking time off between Olympics, Chloe Kim of the U.S. successfully defended her halfpipe gold Thursday at the 2022 Winter Games to become the Olympic event's first-ever repeat champion and multi-title winner.
Kim opened up her first run with a huge method air, after which she nailed a frontside 1080, a cab 900, a switch backside 540 and a cab 1080. Emotional while awaiting her eventual score of 94.00, Kim revealed to the camera she'd just had the worst practice of her life.
"I actually had a really tough practice, so it was a lot of mental challenges for me this morning," Kim said after the competition. "I'm just really proud of myself for going out there and trying despite all the mental battles I had this morning."
On her second and final runs, the 21-year-old Californian attempted to throw down a competition-first cab 1260 — a trick with three and a half rotations performed while riding switch — but missed both tries on the third hit. Nevertheless, Kim remained proud of her performance.
"I am in a much better headspace and I think I had a better idea of what to expect," Kim said. "I am so eager to see my loved ones, my family, my dog, my boyfriend, so I think that will keep me happy and I'm just gonna feel all the feelings and just be proud of myself."
Kim said Eileen Gu, winner of Tuesday's women's freeski big air event, was there in attendance to support her. According to Kim, the two have become good friends over the past few years. She called Gu a sweetheart and empathized with what she's currently facing as a talented young athlete thrust onto the world stage.
Queralt Castellet, 32, seized silver by hitting back-to-back 900s on Run 2, earning Spain its best Winter Games finish since 1972. The 2020 X Games champion previously placed 26th in Torino, 12th in Vancouver, 11th in Sochi and seventh in PyeongChang.
“After five Games, I can tell you it’s been a life, a career completely dedicated to snowboarding, dedicated to a dream of an Olympic medal," said Castellet, whose coach is two-time Olympic silver medalist Danny Kaas.
"It’s been since Torino when I first started dreaming of this. When I saw the girls on the podium, that’s when I started [to say], ‘I want to be there’. I committed to this and never stopped fighting until today now that I have succeeded.”
"I am really happy that I got the first one for Japan," said Tomita, whose sister Ruki Tomita placed fifth. "Everybody was very aggressive, and in that kind of competitive environment I got a medal. That has given me a lot of confidence."
In qualifying, Kim put down a relatively low-gear run featuring a cab 900 and switch backside 540 to score an 87.75 to top the round. She fell on her second run attempting a switch backside 720. Her teammate and reigning world runner-up Maddie Mastro stunningly missed the cut in 13th.
Kim brought home 2018 gold by hitting back-to-back 1080s during a final-run victory lap, then took nearly two years off from competition over the interim quadrennium to heal an ankle injury and attend her freshman year at Princeton University.
She returned in 2021 with a renewed love for her sport and proceeded to win the Laax Open, a fifth X Games Aspen title, a second straight world title and the Aspen Grand Prix, then continued her streak this season at Dew Tour and Laax.
Kim has pushed the event's progression ever since taking 2014 X Games silver at 14, too young at the time for Sochi. Her two golds follow those won by German Nicola Thost at Nagano 1998; Americans Kelly Clark at Salt Lake 2002 and Hannah Teter at Torino 2006; Aussie Torah Bright at Vancouver 2010; and American Kaitlyn Farrington at Sochi 2014.