US teenage sensation Chloe Kim yesterday romped to Olympic snowboarding gold in the women’s half-pipe before bursting into tears as the enormity of her achievement sunk in.
The 17-year-old, who has melted the hearts of home fans in Pyeongchang, South Korea, thanks to her ever-ready smile and Korean heritage, justified her status as the hot favorite with an eye-popping top score of 98.25.
Kim had been assured of gold before her pulsating final run after China’s Liu Jiayu crashed on her last descent.
Pumping her fists after finishing with back-to-back 1080 spins, Kim was serenaded by a pumped-up crowd chanting: “Chloe Kim, Chloe Kim!”
However, after wrapping herself in the US flag, Kim was suddenly overcome with emotion and the tears flowed as she celebrated with her Korean parents.
“I’m a little overwhelmed,” she said after composing herself. “I don’t really know what’s happening and I’m actually feeling a little anxious right now.”
“There was a lot of pressure,” added Kim, who was so good at 13 she might have won gold in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia — but she was too young to compete.
“You wait for four years and it’s pretty nerve-wracking. There definitely was a lot of hype, but I’m proud of how I was able to handle the pressure today,” Kim said.
Liu claimed silver with a score of 89.75 points and US’ Arielle Gold the bronze four points further back.
However, neither looked like threatening Kim, who found time to take to Twitter between runs to complain she was having trouble keeping down her breakfast.
“I wanted to go bigger and better on that third run,” the four-time X Games champion said. “I messed up on my second run so I’m kind of annoyed, but I got redemption on my third.”
“Those were obviously tears of joy,” Kim said after the medalists were presented with cuddly toys. “The mascots are cute, but standing on top of that podium was an insane feeling.”
Kim also revealed that her No. 1 fan — her Seoul-based grandmother — had been in the crowd cheering her on.
“I actually only found out my grandma was at the bottom before my second run,” she said. “So I thought ‘this one’s for grams.’ I can’t wait to go shopping with her.”
While his daughter was bewitching the local fans, Kim’s father, Jong Jin, was spotted waving a handmade sign which read: “Go, Chloe!”
Afterward, the proud father admitted to feeling the pressure of his daughter’s quest for Olympic gold.
“It was very stressful because the media kept saying Chloe was going to win,” he said. “But nobody knows. We can control the process, but we can’t control the result. I never thought about gold. All I ever think about is how dangerous snowboarding is and what if she falls.”
“But grandma of course was very happy. She’s very sweet to Chloe and when she goes to church next I’m sure she’s going to tell all her friends about Chloe’s gold medal,” he said.
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