The 17-year-old has skied nearly every day of her life, yet she still doesn’t feel like an adult.
She’s been skiing on snow for 11 years and feels like she’s been one her whole life. But when it comes to racing, Canada’s Chloe Kim is the grown-up who just arrived.
The 17-year-old is a bronze medalist at the Pyeongchang Games; her accomplishments were one of the biggest headlines of the games and one of the only stories to go on and not land so well. She led all qualifiers and was third heading into the final run. Yet she was slower than Japan’s Misaki Matsui, who surged to take the gold medal and sealed Kim’s fate as she was disqualified for a wipeout and appeared to miss the qualification threshold in her single final run.
Kim is ranked fifth in the world this season, her best ever ranking. She’s also won an Olympic silver and bronze in the slopestyle, a sport that only made its Olympic debut two years ago and is seen as a key part of the progression of freestyle skiing.
“The pressure’s on to do what I’ve done,” Kim said. “It’s making sure to do the things I’ve done my whole life and never thinking it’s impossible. I’ve always been able to push through and do it. I’ve never really tried to sit back and hope something else happens.”
She tried to do that a few weeks ago when she spoke with Todd Hays, the man who raised White Lake for Olympic athletes at 11 and pushed to make a ski ramp there. In that conversation, Hays said Kim was a child and “not really mature” for the Olympics.
“Just because you’re 17 doesn’t mean you’re ready,” Hays said. “What you do on that start gate day in and day out means a lot.”
Kim didn’t even want to answer Hays’ comments, it was that point where her response felt almost irrelevant. Kim is fiercely proud of skiing. She knows there’s pressure to do well, but she’s always felt like a child who always somehow handled things more than her critics could expect.
“All of us are just so lucky that we get to be athletes, some of us really get to do it for a living, and others are lucky to be passionate about something,” Kim said. “I just love everything about my job. All the push, all the training, all the working.”
It’s why it’s so difficult to get Kim on the topic of speedskating. She rarely talks about her brief stint on the American team last season. She’s excited to be back on the hill at home, where the snowboarding world will come up to her for signs of recognition.
“That’s crazy,” Kim said. “I feel like I was just a kid back there watching them do all their tricks and watching them train. Now it’s like, it’s me. They all know who I am.”
Though she rarely let on, Kim is aware there are photographers snapping her every move at everything she does. She’s been recognized enough that all her friends say they already know who Kim is. They tell her, “Hey, I’m just like you.”
She laughs at that. Then she laughs at those that offer her pictures of herself in the snow. She just wants to be a teenager, where there’s no added pressure.
“I’m 17, but I feel like I’m just a normal 17-year-old that lives in a normal house,” Kim said. “It’s like, ‘OK, my friends like you so much. It doesn’t seem so crazy to me to see the paparazzi.’ They don’t know me at all.”
This year, Kim has struggled to describe what she’s felt at the Olympics. She refuses to look too far ahead. The race to 16 medals at the next Olympics could come soon.