Kim’s Olympic Journey Started at Mountain High, With Her Dad
Posted February 12, 2018 10:16 a.m. EST
She’s only 17, and she’s never competed at an Olympics, but Chloe Kim is one of the athletes at this Winter Games whom everyone is watching.
Born in Long Beach, California, to Korean immigrants, Kim started snowboarding before most kids learn to read. At age 4 she began taking trips to Mountain High, in the San Bernardino Mountains, with her father, Jong Jin Kim, where, together, they learned to navigate the slopes.
“We both had no idea what we were doing,” she’s conceded.
That didn’t last long.
Kim won three gold medals at the X Games, all before age 16. She qualified for the Sochi Olympics but didn’t go, because, at 13, she was too young.
Then, in 2016, Kim became the first woman to land back-to-back 1080s in competition. (Yep, that’s three full rotations on one side of the halfpipe followed by three more on the other.)
Her father emigrated in 1982 from South Korea to Southern California, where he worked minimum-wage jobs to save money for college. He settled in Torrance and enrolled at El Camino College, studying engineering by day and operating machinery at night.
So going to Pyeongchang is a homecoming of sorts for Kim, who is fluent in Korean and has family in South Korea. Bedel Saget, a New York Times graphics editor, caught up with her and her parents over the summer at Mammoth Mountain, where she trains.
“I’m really lucky to be Korean,” she told him. “It never felt like a burden to balance two different cultures; it just came naturally.”
Kim is just one of more than a dozen Californians who will be competing in Pyeongchang.
“To see Chloe compete in the Olympics, it’s going to be very exciting and happy,” said her mother, Boran Kim. “I think it will be the best moment of my whole life.”
She competes for gold in the ladies’ halfpipe Monday night.