- At only 17 years old, Chloe Kim is endearing herself to the Olympic world with her affable personality and absurd snowboarding talent.
BONGPYEONG, South Korea — Let’s all salute the multi-talented Chloe Kim, who just won the halfpipe gold medal and got through all of her runs without stopping to take a selfie. Let’s marvel at her snowboarding skills and applaud her self-discipline. After all, her last run was just for show anyway. She had already won gold. She might have won it when she got off the plane.
Kim is 17 years old, which means if the other snowboarders want to win an Olympic gold medal, they have four years to take up another sport. She is the halfpipe’s Simone Biles. Like Biles, Kim is so much better than her fellow competitors that, even if you think a halfpipe is something you hide when your parents visit you in college, you can see how great she is. After she nailed her first run, scoring a 93.75, it was pretty clear that the only way anybody would beat her was to climb the scoreboard and cover up their own decimal point.
Including qualifying, Kim had five runs. She scored above 90 on four of them. Nobody else even did it once.
That is athletic greatness, but greatness alone does not captivate us. Kim is the kind of naturally bubbly and witty athlete we cannot resist.
A sampling: “My dad didn’t cry at all, which I don’t get at all. I’m like: What are you doing?”
Talk about what your father means to you …
“I hate talking about my dad when he’s there because he gets really cocky,” she said. “He’s like, ‘You really do care about me!’”
In between runs on her first day of competition, she tweeted about wanting ice cream and America went nuts. Between finals runs, she of course had to follow it up, creating one of those oh-so-very important social-media challenges that cause people all around the world to miss busses and forget to buy milk. She could have gone hot dog. She could have gone chocolate-chip cookie. Instead she tweeted:
Wish I finished my breakfast sandwich but my stubborn self decided not to and now I'm getting hangry— Chloe Kim (@chloekimsnow) February 13, 2018
I’m sure we can agree: it was a good tweet that became great with hangry and the lack of punctuation at the end.
Kim does not come off as flaky; she just lacks the self-consciousness that most 17-year-olds would feel in a press conference. If she worries about what people think, she hides it well. At one point she rambled so long that she finally just admitted, “I don’t know what I’m saying right now, but I’m just really happy.”
Well, there is a pretty good reason for that. You don’t get to be the best in the world at age 17 by starting late. Kim has been aiming for this since before she really understood she was aiming for this. That she achieved it is a testament to her athleticism, her work ethic, and on some level, the personality that is now endearing her to the American public. The pressure could have broken long ago. She was born to be a star, but she had to work for years to become one.
How Chloe got like this is a mystery.
“My mom (Boran) and I are always talking about followers,” Kim said. “She’s like, ‘Post a picture of me so I can get more followers!’”
(Perhaps not that much of a mystery.)
Kim would have won gold anywhere on the planet, but winning in Korea was especially cool. Kim’s father, Jong Jin, is from Korea, and she learned after her second run that her grandmother was here. By that point, she had already clinched gold.
“My grandma has never seen me compete before,” Kim said. “I was like, ‘This one’s for Grams.’”
It is common knowledge that grandmothers love when their granddaughters do a method, front 10, back 10, front nine, McTwist and crippler seven on a sunny winter day, so naturally that is what Kim did. She said later she could improve upon the moves she threw down. The judges are not so sure. Two of them scored it as a 99. Four others, including the American judge, gave her a 98. How do you like them apples, Grams?
“I hope she enjoyed watching it,” Chloe said, “and I can’t wait to go shopping with her.”
This would have been a great time for me to go interview Chloe Kim’s grandmother, but I didn’t. Perhaps at the mall. For now, let’s all appreciate America’s delightful, precocious and preposterously talented snowboarding star. Whoever cast Chloe Kim as Chloe Kim nailed it.