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Volume 24 No. 179
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Kim’s Snowboarding Performance Feels Oh So American

Ben Fischer

So much of the Winter Olympics feels very foreign. Obviously, right? It’s an international event.

But this is my first Winter Games, and unlike the Summer Games, where the marquee sports are played in high schools and on fields in all 50 states, the Winter Games are full of oddities like biathlon, ski jumping and luge, along with their unfamiliar rules, lingo and traditions.

So my trip to the women’s snowboard halfpipe finals was a welcome return to Americana, at least for a couple hours. What do I mean by that?

First of all, Americans took three of the top four spots. But also, the event just felt more American — pop music playing, English public address commentary that verged into humor at times, and prominent branding. (Officially, snowboard is no different from any other Olympic event in the limits placed on brands, but when the replay video board shows Chloe Kim, mid-flip, the bottom of her board may as well be a Burton billboard.)

Chloe Kim's dominance in the halfpipe seemed as much a coronation as a competition.
Photo: Getty Images

Kim won in dominating fashion, posting a 93.75 on her first of three runs. It turns out she could have slid down the halfpipe on her butt in her next two runs and still won gold.

But, here again displaying an American — or perhaps Jamaican-Usain Bolt — mentality, she still had a show to put on. After her second run, she took to Twitter and said: “Wish I finished my breakfast sandwich but my stubborn self decided not to and now I’m getting hangry.”

On her third run, she tried back-to-back 1080s and nailed it, improving her score to 98.25.

If there was a downside to the event, it was the lack of drama. China’s Jiayu Liu’s second run scored an 89.75, but no one else came within eight points of Kim’s first run. Most of the last half-hour felt like we were waiting for a coronation, which of course we were.

Kim has been projected to win this event by a wide margin for years, but U.S. Olympic history has enough seemingly sure-things who never quite closed the deal for today still to be celebrated. Now, Kim will turn to another American tradition: The intense media and appearances tour that will turn her from a snowboarding star into a national icon.