Olympic gold medalist Chloe Kim wins Burton U.S. Open halfpipe comp
VAIL — Chloe Kim winning the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships doesn’t sound like an unfamiliar scenario, but Kim’s path to victory was anything but ordinary.
It started on Thursday, March 8, when Kim failed to qualify in her usual spot of first. Qualifying first gives riders the last position in the finals, an advantage that can result in the rider not needing to put down a final run and earning what riders call a “victory lap.”
In the Saturday, March 10, halfpipe final, Kim would receive no victory lap. She spent her practice rounds working on her signature combination, back-to-back 1080s.
“I was getting them perfectly in practice,” Kim said.
When it came time for the competition, however, “the wall started changing … the other girls riding were (hitting the top deck) a lot on that hit,” she said.
Kim failed to put the back-to-back 1080s together in her first two runs, and had to change her plan.
“Falling on my first two runs, which never really happens, I didn’t know what to do with myself,” she said. “I was never really in this position where I have to land it on my third run.”
Kim opted for one less rotation on the riders’ right wall, performing a 720 rather than the second 1080 she had been attempting, and was able to complete the run and notch the top score.
“It’s kind of a bummer to have to take a step back,” Kim said. “But honestly I just want to go home in one piece. I saw the other girls having issues on that hit and I was like ‘I’m not going to risk it.’”
KIM: KELLY CLARK IS CHAMPION
Several women hit the top deck of the halfpipe — the flat surface where spectators gather — in Saturday’s finals, including second place finisher Maddie Mastro. Mastro injured herself on her final run after landing a smooth combination of tricks in her second run and notching a score that would hang on for second place.
Burton U.S. Open veteran and nine-time winner Kelly Clark was also among the competitors to hit the deck on the right wall. Kim said seeing Clark return for her third run after falling hard on the second run defined what it meant to be a champion.
“That shows how amazing she is and why she’s my number one inspiration and role model,” Kim said of Clark. “Shout out to her for showing us how to be strong and keep going no matter what.”
TRICKY RIGHT WALL
Mastro was being evaluated by medical personnel following the competition and was unavailable for comment. In between runs, however, she commented on the fact that a lot of the riders had been having trouble with right wall of the halfpipe, saying the flat light conditions weren’t helping.
“But I think we’re all really ready to go and just getting a little bit too excited,” she said. “We’re all good enough riders to work through this condition of the flat light.”
No riders landed their first run. Mastro was last to drop on the first run; she clipped the deck on the right wall. Following Mastro, the first competitor in the second run, Kelly Clark, also hit the deck hard on the right wall. Jiayu Liu followed Clark and also hit the deck hard on the right wall.
Haruna Matsumoto, who finished third, finally broke the cycle, landing a clean run after watching three riders in front of her hit the deck on the right wall.
Matsumoto, through the aid of a translator, said she was a little worried about the right wall of the halfpipe.
“So she kind of popped, trying to keep her in the halfpipe,” the translator said.
While the tricky right wall prevented Kim from pushing her progression in her winning run at the 2018 Burton U.S. Open, that doesn’t mean new things weren’t on her mind.
“In a perfect world, I would have landed the back to back 10s in the first run and then tried to drop in switch and basically just do my whole run backwards,” she said. “That’s what I really wanted to do.”
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