Chloe Kim makes history in Park City
When 15-year-old snowboarder and two-time X Games gold medalist Chloe Kim landed a run that scored a near-perfect 96.50 points on Saturday afternoon in the women’s halfpipe finals of the Park City Grand Prix, she knew she was almost guaranteed a victory.
With two more runs left to go, Kim could basically do whatever she wanted to do, as only a rider’s highest score counts. Kim didn’t take it easy on her final two runs, however — she decided to go for history.
No woman had ever landed back-to-back 1080s (three full spins) in a halfpipe contest before. On Kim’s second run, she attempted just that, but couldn’t land the second 1080.
On the last run of the women’s finals, Kim attempted the feat again, this time landing both 1080s as part of a perfect run, making history and also recording only the second-ever perfect score of 100 in halfpipe snowboarding. (Shaun White scored the other perfect run during the 2012 X Games.)
After watching Kim’s unparalleled accomplishment and seeing the judges reward it with a perfect score, the Park City crowd gave Kim a raucous round of applause. Following the awards ceremony, Kim said she didn’t come into Saturday’s competition planning to do the historic tricks.
"I wasn’t really planning on doing it here originally, but I came up here today and my 10s were landing super clean and I was getting so much speed into the next hit that I saw it as an opportunity," she said. "I’m so stoked I went for it."
By basically winning the gold medal in her first run, Kim said she was able to take advantage of the beautiful weather conditions in her remaining two runs.
"Putting down a good first run, it gave me two more runs to try to put [the 1080s] down," she said. "I was really stoked that I was able to land a good, clean first run so I could try that. The weather was perfect and there was no wind at all. My front wall was super nice and slushy. It was just perfect for me to try that."
Finishing in second place was fellow 15-year-old American Maddie Mastro. In third was Kelly Clark, who, at age 32, is the all-time winningest female snowboarder in history. Clark was the first one to congratulate Kim after her perfect run. The two shared a long hug and a brief conversation while Kim waited for the judges to reveal her score.
"I told her I was proud of her," Clark said. "I told her that was amazing. I found myself more proud than anticipated watching Chloe do that today. It was amazing for the sport and I was glad to get to be a part of it."
Kim said having Clark as one of her biggest supporters is something she’s very grateful for.
"Kelly’s always been there for me," she said. "After every run, she’s always the first one to give me a hug. Kelly’s one of the only people who has seen me come up like this and she’s watched me snowboard since I was 10. Now I’m at this point and I just feel like she’s like a family member now. It’s awesome."
Though Clark acknowledged that the sport of snowboarding is trending younger, she said she still has plenty of competition and innovation left in the tank.
"In Mammoth a few weeks ago at the Grand Prix, I was joking around that if you added up Maddie and Chloe’s ages together, I was older than both of them combined. That’s either really awesome or really sad," she laughed. "It’s really amazing to see where women’s snowboarding has progressed. I think this final was an amazing display of women’s snowboarding. I’m excited to be a part of it still and I’m proud of the legwork I’ve done and to see where these ladies are taking it. And I feel like I’ve got a lot of potential left as well. I think it’s exciting for the sport and it’s going to be a fun few years."
Now it’s up to Clark, Kim and the rest of the world’s top snowboarders to figure out what the next record-setting run will entail. Kim said she’ll continue working on the consistency of her 1080s.
"I’m really looking forward to the future, just hopefully I can clean it up a little bit and have it pretty consistent," she said. "I just think it’s a huge step for women’s snowboarding. I’m just so thankful I could be a part of that progression."
U.S. takes gold in men’s halfpipe
In the men’s competition, Team USA’s Matt Ladley landed a huge first run to score a 93.50 and take the lead going into the second run. In the second run, he landed an even bigger run and scored a 95.50.
Either of those scores would have earned Ladley the gold medal Saturday, as Japan’s Ryo Aono (92.00) and Naito Ando (90.50) couldn’t quite bridge the gap and ended up in second and third, respectively.
Team USA riders Jake Pates and Greg Bretz finished fifth and sixth, respectively.
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Park City dominated East in a sweep on Tuesday night to improve to 3-3 on the season and 3-0 in region play.