Pyeongchang (South Korea) (AFP) – American snowboarding sensation Chloe Kim had one thing on her mind after she nailed top score in Olympic halfpipe qualifying with a jaw-dropping display Monday — a well-deserved ice cream.
The high-flying 17-year-old was treated like a rock star by enthusiastic local fans because of her Korean heritage and confirmed her status as the gold medal favourite in Pyeongchang with a high total of 95.50 points.
China’s Liu Jiayu qualified second with 87.75 ahead of Japan’s Haruna Matsumoto (84.25).
“I want my ice cream!” screamed Kim after an acrobatic second run greeted with oohs and aahs by a packed crowd.
It might have been brutally cold and blustery, with a wind chill of minus 20 degrees Celsius (-4F), but Kim said: “I really like vanilla Swiss almond — but I’ll be okay with the mango sorbet.”
Looking forward to Tuesday’s final, Kim added: “I was really nervous but I’m always more nervous during qualis (qualifying) so tomorrow I can really focus on what I want to do.”
Long, bleached-blonde hair poking out from behind her visor, Kim was in a class of her own, executing a string of eye-popping spins and loop-the-loop tricks.
“I don’t even know what I did,” joked Kim, whose parents come from South Korea and who has been adopted by locals as one of their own.
“That second run felt perfect. I’ve been really trying to clean up all the little details and I think I did that so I’m really excited.”
Korean fans screaming her name jostled to take photos of Kim as she trudged to waiting journalists after her second run.
“This is the best scenario ever,” she said. “I’m so grateful to be out here and represent the US in the country my family came from.”
– ‘Grandma, stay warm’ –
Dangerous gusts that caused havoc in the women’s slopestyle final and forced the postponement of the women’s giant slalom periodically sent puffs of snow swirling across the top of the halfpipe run.
But it had little effect on the effervescent Kim.
“The pipe’s been so good so I’m thankful the conditions have been so amazing,” smiled the four-time X Games champion, who might have challenged for gold in Sochi four years ago — if she hadn’t been too young to compete.
“My goal here was to land every run I do in the contest and I’ve landed two so far, so three to go!”
Despite tearing it up in qualifying Kim admitted she wasn’t sure whether her biggest fan — her Korea-based grandmother — had been in the crowd.
But she revealed the family matriarch would be rocking some trendy sports gear if and when she turns up.
“My grandma’s in Seoul — she might be here,” said Kim.
“But I gave her some stuff I got from the opening ceremony. I gave her some Nike gear and she was really excited — so grandma, stay warm for me!”