Chloe Kim can perform snowboarding’s most challenging stunts. She’s the first woman to nail (in competition) back-to-back “1080s” — maneuvers with three full rotations in the air. Expectations are high that this 17-year-old from California will dazzle crowds in the halfpipe event at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Kim, a first-generation Korean American, visited South Korea last year in anticipation of the Pyeongchang Winter Games. She was too young, at 13, to compete at the Sochi Olympics in 2014.
In South Korea, she spoke with students about balancing athletics with her academic schedule — after all, she’s a normal secondary school student — and took kids out for snowboarding and selfies.
At the Korea National Olympic Training Center, she picked up some archery tips from Ki Bo-bae, a South Korean archer who won gold medals at the Olympics in London and Rio de Janeiro.
But food was definitely a highlight during her trip, Kim said at a forum at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. “I love Korea!”
Competing in South Korea will be extra special for Kim. “I have family here, so I’m really excited to know that they’ll be supporting me,” she said. And her parents, both from South Korea, travel with her to every event. “Having them here will mean a lot.”
The outgoing Torrance, California, native started early. She tumbled onto the slopes when she was small, in the arms of her father. They fell off the ski lift in their first snowboarding lesson.
“I definitely didn’t like it at the beginning,” Kim said. “Probably because I was 4 and it was cold out.”
Kim quickly outgrew her first board, bought used online for $25, and eventually made herself one of the sport’s highest flyers. After a gold medal at the Youth Olympics in 2016, she is a favorite to get to the podium in Pyeongchang.
Hear more of Chloe’s story, and how she and her father team up for training, in the video below:
A version of this story was published on March 20, 2017.