Chloe Kim: Fearless American snowboarder primed to blaze trail at Winter Olympics and beyond

All eyes will be on Chloe Kim as she begins the defense of her women’s halfpipe title at the Winter Olympics.

The 21-year-old is out to grab another gold medal to complete a remarkable four-year journey from Pyeongchang to Beijing. In that time Kim has redefined the possibilities for an athlete both on the outside and within, breaking new ground surrounding the expectations of an Olympic champion.

Kim graduated from child halfpipe prodigy to the world’s best female snowboarder four years ago, delighting fans as the first woman ever to land back-to-back 1080s. Her exploits of her saw her of her compatriot and bronze medalist Arielle Gold describes her as “the greatest women’s snowboarder of all time, by far”.

Then a 17-year-old, Kim was celebrated both back home in the United States, where she was born and raised, and in South Korea, the home of her parents. A collective joy not shared after American-born Chinese freestyle skier Eileen Gu’s gold in the big air on Tuesday, having caused unrest in the United States at her decision by ella over which country to represent.

Kim had already persevered through unbelievable mental challenges as a teenager and detailed her experience with anti-Asian hate growing up in the United States while fulfilling her potential in a mostly white sport, telling ESPN: “I experience hate on a daily basis. The States is my home. I went to school here. But I don’t feel accepted here.”

Chloe Kim of Team United States performs a trick during the Snowboard halfpipe training session

(Getty Images)

Despite reimagining her sport with an enviable collection of medals and mid-seven figure endorsement deals, the post-Olympic depression quickly set in after 2018.

Kim admitted to feeling an “emptiness” for the first time since starting out as a four-year-old in Mammoth Mountain, California and bravely took a step back.

Her self-reflection led her to the conclusion that she was not ready to become an activist and embrace such responsibility thrown at her. So she opted to take a hiatus from the sport, heading to Princeton University to study anthropology, while also addressing those mental challenges.

Chloe Kim poses after winning gold in the women’s halfpipe at Pyeongchang 2018

(AFP via Getty Images)

“I was struggling with my mental health and I needed help,” Kim told Time. “Speaking to a professional once per week has changed my life and the way I see things, it’s brought a lot of peace to me, I want everybody to have that same experience as I had.”

It has been an episode that has seen Kim empathize with American gymnast Simone Biles, who experienced her own mental struggles within sport before withdrawing from competition at the Tokyo Olympics last year to avoid suffering injury.

It makes Kim’s appetite to push the limits of the sport even more admirable given the danger involved with just one minor slip or miscalculation.

Chloe Kim of Team United States during the snowboard halfpipe training session

(Getty Images)

“She’s the face of female halfpipe riding,” Olympic big air bronze medalist in 2018 and Discovery Eurosport pundit Billy Morgan says. “Ella She’s an incredible athlete, who is leading the charge and has been so far ahead of the game for so long. Ella she’s such a good image for snowboarding and makes it look good. The Olympics is about inspiring others to get into sport and she does just that.”

But beneath her immense mental resilience is a slick and reliable technique that enables her to deliver an array of thrilling tricks.

“The way she rides the halfpipe is like nobody else in the women’s field,” explains Kjersti Buaas, a bronze medalist from Turin 2006 and Discovery Eurosport pundit. “There is barely any movement on the flat ground when she drops in.

Chloe Kim of Team United States attends a press conference in Zhangjiakou, China

(Getty Images)

“That’s what I see a lot with the Japanese guys’ halfpipe team but the women are getting there too. Chloe has really good technique, that’s why she can go so big, she is patient on the take-offs, which is why she can do these big tricks, she’s taken the baton on the big stage after Kelly Clark, and is keeping women’s half -pipe at that level and pushing it beyond.”

So when Kim drops in on Wednesday for qualification, with the women’s final halfpipe taking place in the early hours of Thursday, expect her usual beaming smile.

And after teasing the prospect of showing a number of new tricks this week, Kim’s newfound fearlessness will surely see her continue to blaze a trail in snowboarding and beyond.

Chloe Kim after the snowboard halfpipe finals at the 2021 World Championships in Aspen, Colorado

(USA TODAY Sports)

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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