ZHANGJIAKOU (AFP, REUTERS) - American sensation Chloe Kim gave a snowboarding masterclass as she retained her Olympic halfpipe title at the Beijing Games on Thursday (Feb 10).
The 21-year-old had the title in the bag after only the first of three runs, earning a top score of 94 by breezily landing 1080s to give her a virtually unassailable lead.
She clutched her helmet and fell to her knees after sliding into the finish area, then got back up and turned the rest of the competition into her own private victory lap.
She fell on her second run and received a hug from Californian-born Chinese freestyle skiing star Eileen Gu, who was watching at the finish area, before making her way back up the hill for her third and final attempt.
By then, she already had the title wrapped up, and although she fell again on her final run, she celebrated with the other riders when she slid in to the finish area.
“I just was so proud of myself,” Kim said about her first run, adding she had a terrible practice session where she fell twice going into Thursday’s final that had initially put her in a “weird headspace”.
“I was just like overflowed with emotions when I was able to land it on the first go.”
Spain's Queralt Castellet took silver on 90.25 points and Japan's Sena Tomita claimed bronze on 88.25.
China's best hope Cai Xuetong, who was third in qualifying, finished fourth on 81.25 despite vocal support from Gu and the flag-waving home crowd.
Kim became the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding medal when she won halfpipe gold as a 17-year-old at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
She took a two-year break from competition after her Olympic success as she struggled to cope with the pressures of fame.