The U.S. women’s snowboarding halfpipe team is formidable, with Olympic gold medalists Kelly Clark and Hannah Teter highlighting a four-woman squad bound for next month’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
But the team would be much stronger if Chloe Kim, 13, was not too young to make the trip as an athlete representative.
Athletes eligible for participation at the Sochi Games had to turn 15 by the end of 2013, which comes as sort of a relief to Kim.
“I think I would be really nervous and pressured,” she said, half-jokingly, to The New York Times. “I’m glad that I’m not old enough, almost.”
Some of her rivals are glad, too, because Kim is one of the best athletes not going to the Olympics because of the age rule.
The budding star from Torrance, California, who trains at Mammoth Mountain, dominated halfpipe competitions as a junior and is becoming a regular on the podium while competing against major players.
On Friday at Mammoth she finished second to Clark in two Sprint Grand Prix events, which served as Olympic qualifiers.
Last month at the Dew Tour in Breckenridge, Colorado, Kim finished third behind Australia’s Torah Bright (2010 Olympic gold medalist) and Clark (Olympic gold medalist in 2002 and bronze medalist in 2010).
(Footage of Kim’s Dew Tour run is posted below.)
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Mike Jankowski, U.S. Olympic freeskiing and snowboarding coach, referred to Kim as a special talent and added, “I’ve never had anyone like her [on the team].”
So it’s safe to predict that, barring any significant setbacks, the U.S. women’s team will be formidable again, with Kim leading the way, at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Kim will be 17 and the storyline will include the fact that since her parents immigrated to the United States from South Korea, she will be cheered by both Americans and South Koreans.
But that’s peeking too far into the future. Kim has her sights set on this week’s X Games in Aspen, Colorado, during which she can show the world what it will be missing without her zipping through the halfpipe at Sochi.
After that, perhaps she can take a break from the stressful life of an athlete and reunite with her dogs, rabbit, and a talking parrot named Kiwi.
According to The New York Times, agents and prospective sponsors are always calling, but Kim is content to let her parents handle the business aspect of her career. She wasn’t even sure if she had earned prize money for those runner-up finishes at Mammoth.
“But if I do,” she said, “the first thing I’m going to do is buy candy.”
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