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An American story: How Chloe Kim, daughter of immigrants and social-media star, won Olympic gold

An American story: How Chloe Kim, daughter of immigrants and social-media star, won Olympic gold

PYEONGCHONG, South Korea – The most American story of the PyeongChang Games unfolded atop a mountain here Tuesday morning. The daughter of two immigrants who was pushed to perform extreme feats as a moppet and grew to document them through social media ubiquity won an Olympic gold medal. She is the spinning, flipping, dyed-blonde zeitgeist.

Chloe Kim, still every bit of 17 years old, still excited to go shopping with her grandma and snap selfies and tweet about her hunger pangs between runs down the snowboard halfpipe, was made for the moment she created at Phoenix Snow Park. Every move for the past decade, from sending her to Switzerland for elementary school to globetrotting in search of competition to crafting the cereal-box-ready image of a California girl who was her parents’ American Dream, was GPS-guided toward this. This is how you build a child into a brand in 2018.

America had fallen in love – as America is wont to do when the story is literally as picture perfect as Kim’s – well before the stunning third run that came after she had locked up gold with a first-run 93.75. Kim heaved herself high above the 22-foot wall to grab her board on the first hit and followed with the trick unique to her: back-to-back 1080s, twirling three times each. Three more flawless jumps followed, and her score of 98.25 blew away silver medalist Jiayu Liu and American Arielle Gold, who took bronze.

“I don’t really know what’s happening, and I actually feel a little anxious right now,” Kim said. “I’m a little overwhelmed. But this is the best outcome I could ever ask for. It’s been such a long journey. Ahhh. Going home with a gold is amazing.”

It is so much, so soon, though that captures the essence of Kim’s existence. Tears flooded her eyes as she stood atop the podium, and her mom couldn’t stave them off, either, and her sister was bawling into Kim’s hair. Only Jong Kim, her father, who had held aloft the laminated sign that said “Go Chloe!”, staunched the blubbering.

“My dad didn’t cry, which I don’t get at all,” Kim said. “Like, what are you doing?”

What he has always done: straddle the existence between assertiveness and nuisance. Parents of prodigies have long struggled with that fine line, and Jong’s involvement with Kim’s career is unmatched in snowboarding. He saw genius in his daughter.

“When she was 8,” Jong said, “I thought, ‘Well, maybe I can bring her to the Olympics.’ ”

So he quit his job and devoted his life to Kim. She moved to Geneva to live with her aunt. When Jong visited, they went to France so she could ride the halfpipe in Avoriaz. He accompanied her around the world at 10, when she would show up to competitions and flummox organizers that couldn’t fathom a girl this young, this good. Whatever potholes presented themselves – “Girls are kind of very difficult to take care of,” Jong said – were filled in with the promise of what was to come.

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