Snowboarder Chloe Kim Has Been Unstoppable In 2016. What Does She Think About It All?
Snowboarder Chloe Kim is the first athlete under 16 to win two X Games golds and the first woman to land back-to-back 1080s in a contest. In advance of X Games Oslo (Feb. 24-28) and the US Open (Feb. 29-Mar. 5), she gives us her spin on her history-making moments.
How different was it coming into X Games Aspen in January as the defending gold medalist?
It was funny because all I saw on Instagram and Twitter was, "If Chloe wins gold, she will be the youngest to get two gold medals before turning 16." I thought it was fun, but I don't go into a contest thinking I will defend my gold medal. I go with a run in mind that I want to land. It's a fun story for everyone else, but it's not something I'm concerned with. It's more for the public.
You were 13 at your first X Games in 2014. You're 15 now, and people were using the words "mature" and "veteran" to describe you in Aspen. You don't even have a driver's license yet. What is that like?
I appreciate it, but I still have a lot to learn. I'm not a veteran. Kelly [Clark] has everything figured out. I don't know when I am going to be like that. Hopefully soon. When people call me a veteran, it makes me sound old. But I saw a bowl of candy the other day and I couldn't resist.
You will compete in SuperPipe at X Games Oslo, where there will also be women's Big Air for the first time. Are you interested in competing in other disciplines, like Big Air or Slopestyle?
It was always my dream to go to the Olympics for halfpipe and slopestyle, but nowadays everyone is so good at both, it would be hard to keep up and do well at both. But it is something I want to try. Maybe after this Olympics, I'll give it a season trying to do both.
Last year at X Games, you had a bad fall in practice, got up and won the event. This year the conditions were snowy, yet you seemed unfazed. Where does that strong-mindedness come from?
I was touched when it was storming this year and people showed up to cheer us on. I thought, "I am going to put on a good show today." It's important to be able to ride in any condition. Except for wind; I cannot ride in wind. But if it snowed a foot or two, that is when control comes into play. Thankfully, I have been able to deal with the snow. It shows how much hard work pays off, by going back and working on the basics.
At the U.S. Grand Prix in Park City, Utah, just one week after Aspen, you became the first woman to land back-to-back 1080s in competition. When did you decide you wanted to attempt that run?
That day. My 720s were easy and smooth and big, so I thought, "Let's just send one." It was crazy because I didn't try a Cab 10 [short for 1080] in that pipe at all before finals. But it was bluebird and super sunny: I had to do it.
What does it mean to you to be the first woman to land back-to-back 1080s?
When I learned my first 10, my friend was like, "You're finally doing man tricks." I thought that was so funny. It will show people women's snowboarding isn't a joke. I knew if I could get back-to-back 10s, it would be a huge step for women's snowboarding.
That run earned you a perfect 100. What did you think when you saw that score?
Honestly, the 100 didn't mean that much because I know my run wasn't a 100. Let's be honest. I only had four hits. I barely grabbed the Cab 10. Four hits is unacceptable. I was happy to see that everyone was stoked. At the X Games, that run would maybe score in the 90s. But I was happy with my riding.
Why do you think the judges rewarded you with that score?
Because it had never been done and it was historic, so I think it was just to make it a little more exciting. I was so stoked that I landed the 10s, not that I got a 100.
Are you able to watch your runs objectively?
I'm hard on myself at practice and beat myself up pretty well. When it comes down to the contest, it's about having fun. I love watching my runs, but I hate watching my own interviews. That, I can't do. When I'm doing my run, I don't know what it looks like, so I like being able to watch it and see what it looks like to everyone else. I thought my first run [at X Games this year] was great. I went so much bigger than my second run. The snow got heavier. It was nice to watch myself and be happy with my grabs all the way around.
Who were the riders you admired growing up?
Kelly Clark and Torah Bright and Hannah Teter, because I watched the Olympics when I was younger and they stood out so much because they were going bigger and had so much style.
What's it like to stand at the top of the halfpipe, look around and see those women waiting to drop in and compete against you?
It's really crazy. Every once in a while, I take a moment. I'm like, "Woah. I'm at the X Games." It's an honor to ride with these women. I love the sportsmanship in snowboarding. After our runs, everyone is cheering each other on, and when one of us falls, we support each other. We hang out in the heated tent between runs and share stories. They've become my family, and it's comforting to come into a contest with them.
What is it like to hear those women say you are the rider to beat?
I don't like the word "beat." It does feel all right, I guess. But at the end of the day, I am just happy to put down a run. Going into every contest, I don't think about beating this person or that person. It would create unnecessary anxiety. If I think I stomped a solid run, then I'm stoked with myself no matter what.
You've done a lot already this season. What next?
I know that a lot of people have been expecting doubles from me for a very long time. Right when people saw me, they said that. I really like that style is coming back into the scene and the judges are taking that into consideration. It's important and gives you that flair and uniqueness. That's something I am trying to work on. Style is something you can see right off the bat; you can't explain it. It's like having a sense of fashion. If you see someone and know they have a sense of fashion, you can recognize them from across the street. It's how you ride and how you grab and tweak out your grabs and make [your riding] different.