As the world enters another phase of Covid-19 lockdowns, the ongoing 2022 Beijing Olympics is here to provide some respite. We are only halfway through, but the sporting extravaganza has already provided surprises, drama and popular winners – like 21-year-old Chloe Kim, a fan favourite who recently snatched another gold medal in the half-pipe snowboarding category.
“I was so proud of myself. I had the worst practice ever,” Kim shouted after landing the run and earning her high score, according to CNN. She also praised her fellow competitors and said in an interview that “the girls are killing it”.
The victorious moment also saw Eileen Gu, China’s big air freeskier gold medallist, cheering and showing support for Kim from the bottom of the half-pipe. The two athletes hugged it out and Kim shouted “love you!” as she walked off.
Here’s everything you need to know about the young and talented Miss Kim.
She will go down in history
At the 2018 Winter Olympics, Kim stole the spotlight after winning gold at only 17. Kim also became the youngest female Olympic gold medallist in snowboarding, a feat she achieved after also becoming the first woman to land back-to-back 1080s (three full rotations in the air) at the Olympics.
With her recent Beijing win, she became the only female athlete to win back-to-back half-pipe golds, too. Her score of 94.00 put her almost four points above second-placed Queralt Castellet of Spain and almost six ahead of Japan’s Tomita Sena in bronze.
What’s more, having nailed that high score in the first round, she used her second and third runs (only the highest of the three is counted) to try a new trick, although she failed to land it.
She started snowboarding at four
The Korean-American athlete started her snowboarding journey relatively early at the age of four, when she used to accompany her father down the slopes of California’s Mammoth Mountain, according to Time. Her parents then sent her to Geneva, Switzerland, to train for two years.
Kim made her US national team debut at 13 and won silver in the half-pipe competition at the 2014 X Games (she was too young for that year’s Winter Olympics). She has since won gold six times at the X Games, as well as twice at the Winter Youth Olympics.
However, after her first Olympic win, Kim took a break as she felt burnt out and decided to enrol at Princeton University. “I felt a little lost. I was in a pretty low, dark place,” she told Time.
She cut her campus life short though in March 2020 to go back to snowboarding. “I guess I would tell my younger self that even though things get hard and people are mean to you or whatever, it’ll get better and you’re going to realise that you have so much good happening in your life,” she said to the same publication.
Her humility shines through
Having accomplished so much so early in life could get to some people’s heads, but Kim tries to remain humble. In an interview with People last year, the young champion said that she didn’t want to think that she is the best.
“I’m never going to think of myself as the best. I feel like there’s so much I can do and I don’t think I deserve to be called the best,” she said, adding, “I think I want to continue progressing as an athlete, as a person. Then I’ll be comfortable with that, I guess.”
She spent lockdown in LA with her boyfriend
During lockdown, Kim has been spending quiet time with her boyfriend Evan Berle, as revealed in her Instagram post where she wrote, “Happy anniversary bubs! You’re pretty funny and I’m not sick of you yetttt … hehe. Seriously the best quarantine buddy I could ask for and am so grateful for you.”
According to his LinkedIn page, Berle is an art history major and earned his degree from Santa Monica College. But the most important thing? He is also a snowboarder. The two share an adorable dog named Reese and live in a four-bedroom home in the west side of Los Angeles, as revealed in Time.
She won US$37,500 prize money and was featured on Time’s cover
We know that athletes can earn hefty sums of money, but that doesn’t usually come from direct winnings. But an Olympic gold winner like Kim is entitled to US$37,500 prize money offered by the US Olympic Committee.
She also won acclaim. After her gold in South Korea in 2018, she was named as one of Time’s most influential teens and then in January this year, ahead of Beijing, she made it on the cover of the magazine.
Sharing it on her Instagram, Kim wrote, “Still in disbelief. Thank you so much @time, I am sooo damn honoured!!!! I’m feeling pretty emotional but proud of myself for opening up a bit more and sharing things that I’ve experienced/struggled with over the last few years.”
She earns millions a year from endorsements
It’s impossible not to notice the cornucopia of endorsements on Kim’s Instagram page: brands like Toyota, Laneige, Nike and Breitling all want her to talk about their products. As per her recent Time interview, “her annual endorsement income is in the mid-seven figures, according to an industry source”.
She has worked with sports brands Nike, Burton and Oakley ever since she turned pro at 13, and made deals with more varied companies like Visa, Mondelez (Ritz and Oreo), Samsung and Monster Energy after she turned 18. She has over 796,000 followers on Instagram and 270,000 on Twitter at the time of writing.
Note: This story was originally published on SCMP and has been republished on this website.