Chloe Kim wins gold in Olympic halfpipe

Not perfect, still golden for Chloe Kim in Olympic halfpipe

Eddie Pells, The Ap National Writer
United States' Chloe Kim reacts during the women's halfpipe finals at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Zhangjiakou, China. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

ZHANGJIAKOU, China (AP) — There were doubts, and falls, and fear for Chloe Kim.

Ultimately, there was a gold medal, too.

The 21-year-old American’s second straight trip to the top of the Olympic podium — a trip taken Thursday after a terrible pre-contest training session that made her wonder if she really could make it — came with a timely reminder not only for her, but for everyone else paying attention to her latest domination of the halfpipe.

“It’s unfair to be expected to be perfect, and I’m not perfect in every way,” Kim said.

Kim has come as close as anyone this side of Shaun White to “perfect” on a halfpipe. Because of that, there was no real drama coming in about who would win the women’s contest at the Secret Garden Olympic halfpipe. IOC president Thomas Bach came to see it. So did China’s burgeoning superstar, Eileen Gu. She had a front-row perch and even hugged it out with Kim between runs.

Kim put her stamp on this one early, knocking down a — perfect? — run on her first trip down the halfpipe. She accomplished precisely what she sought on this Olympic trip.

“Spinning all four ways and mastering the sport has been a goal,” said her coach, Rick Bower.

The ability to ride forward and backward, then spin in either direction from either side, is a holy grail of riding — a skill that, many snowboarders will say, separates the mere acrobats from those who really can ride.

Kim came to China ready to show the world she could do it. But time after time in practice before the contest started, she struggled and fell. It explains her reaction at the bottom of her first run, when she nailed all five jumps she tried, three of which involved jumping while riding backward.

She fell down onto the snow and put her head to the ground. She placed her hands over her mouth. Some 10 minutes later, NBC showed her at the top, still crying tears of joy. She scored a 94, and anyone who’s been following this game over the eight years since she came to the halfpipe knew nobody would catch her. Queralt Castellet of Spain finished second and Sena Tomita of Japan finished third.

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