For snowboarding phenom Kim, another title, and a taste of things to come
The Associated Press
That already sizable gap between Chloe Kim and the rest of the world is growing even bigger.
The 18-year-old Kim added a world championship to her overflowing collection of halfpipe titles, outdistancing second-place finisher Xuetong Cai of China by 9.5 points on a frigid afternoon in Park City, Utah.
With Friday’s win, Kim is now the reigning Olympic, X Games, U.S. Open and world champion. Just as daunting to the other nine riders — and dozens of more looking on from elsewhere — was the trick Kim tried but didn’t land after her victory was already wrapped up.
It was a frontside, double-cork 1080. Four months ago in a training session in Switzerland, Kim became one of the rare women to land a double-flipping jump, and the first to land it with a frontside takeoff. She tried to bring it out for the world to see Friday, but couldn’t stay upright. A snowy week had limited her time in the halfpipe leading into the contest.
“I wish I’d put it down, but at the next contest, hopefully, I’ll be able to do it,” she said. “It’s just so hard when you don’t get that much practice. But I’m stoked I tried it, and I’m glad I’m walking away in one piece.”
Remarkable as the trick itself was that Kim chose to try it now. The year after the Olympics is generally a down year for these athletes — a year geared toward healing, having fun and recharging the batteries.
Men’s gold and silver medalists Shaun White and Ayumu Hirano didn’t compete in Park City.
Though Kim recently decided to enroll at Princeton next fall, she’s showing no signs of taking a break quite yet.
The same might be said of Scotty James, the Aussie who finished third in last year’s Olympics but first in the hearts of many purists, who appreciate his devotion to the technical aspects of a sport that has become almost singularly obsessed with height and flips during the past decade.
James can go big, too, but he stands out with tricks such as the switch backside 1080 he used to open his final run. It’s a jump performed traveling backward, then flipping backward — akin to a right-handed baseball player swinging left handed while suspended upside down — and doing it to open the run makes it that much more daunting.
He landed that one perfectly, then put together a series of double-corks, and landed all of them without a hitch.
In all, it arguably wasn’t as difficult as his Olympic bronze-medal run last year, but it was a sure winner. When his score of 97.5 came up, James thrust his trademark red boxing gloves into the air and celebrated his third straight title at the world championships. He also won in 2015 and 2017.
“I was pinching myself when I won my second world title, and I’m triple-pinching myself now,” James said.
Yuto Totsuka of Japan finished second, followed by Patrick Burgener of Switzerland. Iouri Podladtchikov, the 2014 Olympic champion, took a fall during warmups and did not compete.
“Whoever’s going to come and show up, whether it’s Shaun or Ayumu, or anyone else, I work day in and day out to make sure I can stand on the podium, and I’ll continue to do that,” James said. “Whoever’s out there, let’s go.”
But while James knows he’s got plenty of competition out there — including 17-year-old Toby Miller, the protege of White’s who finished out of the medals by only 1.25 points — Kim’s main competition will be herself.
“I wouldn’t say winning is always the big goal,” Kim said. “I always want to push myself, do different runs, lay different tricks. As long as it’s about pushing myself and progressing the sport, it’s good.”
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Aspen again is led by senior Christian Kelly at No. 1 singles and Alex Mosher at No. 2 singles. The pair held down those same spots last season, when the Skiers finished sixth overall.