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.”
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!”
Vicious winds caused a string of crashes and complaints as America’s Jamie Anderson survived the chaos to clinch her second straight slopestyle snowboarding Olympic gold in treacherous conditions on Monday.
Nearly all the athletes – including Anderson – tumbled at some point at Pyeongchang’s frigid Phoenix Park, where strong winds forced Sunday’s qualifiers to be scrapped and also delayed the final for more than an hour on Monday.
The numerous falls – none of the athletes appeared to have been badly hurt – prompted grumbling that the final was allowed to take place at all.
It was just the latest event at the Games to be disrupted by the wind, with the prestigious men’s downhill skiing moved to Thursday after falling victim to the weather.
“So many people got hurt because of the wind already,” said Austrian snowboarder Anna Gasser, a day after 17-year-old Tess Coady, the youngest member of the Australian team in South Korea, was forced out after wrecking her left knee in training.
“Even yesterday, the practice we did in the morning was dangerous,” added Gasser after finishing 15th in the slopestyle.
Gasser called it “a lottery” and said: “I don’t think it was a fair competition and I’m a little disappointed in the organisation that they pulled through with it.
“From my point of view I think it was not a good show for women’s snowboarding.”
Britain’s Aimee Fuller, who finished down in 17th after crashing, branded them some of the toughest conditions she had competed in and said she had “no chance” of landing her last jump when she was caught by one strong gust.
“Conditions today were definitely a challenge. It was for sure not what I wanted, not what I expected, not what I dreamed of for my Olympic final,” said the 26-year-old, who was unhurt in the fall.
“There were huge gusts of wind – I’ve decided to call it the Pyeongchang Gust.”
Anderson, 27, became the first woman to win two Olympic snowboarding golds, despite briefly falling in her final run, with Laurie Blouin of Canada earning silver and Finland’s Enni Rukajarvi taking bronze.
But all the talk was about the wind, which coupled with the sub-zero temperatures made life tough for athletes and spectators.
In the build-up to competition, Britain’s Katie Ormerod and teenager Coady both suffered Games-ending injuries on the slopestyle course, which features high rails and huge jumps to negotiate in the swirling winds.
Coady ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), abruptly ending her first Olympics and leaving her facing several months on the sidelines.
She blamed the wind for the crash, writing on Instagram: “Well Olympics came to a screeching halt today for me… got picked up in the wind on the bottom jump in practice and my ACL was not a big fan!”
Ormerod was sidelined after breaking her heel in training — after earlier fracturing her wrist on the Pyeongchang course.
American Mikaela Shiffrin, one of the biggest names at the Pyeongchang Games, begins her bid to light up the olympics in alpine skiing on Monday.
The 22-year-old targets the giant slalom to launch her multi-medal campaign following on her gold medal win in the slalom at the Sochi Olympics four years ago.
AFP looks at five things to know ahead of Monday’s race.
Shiffrin tipped for a bagful
The opening giant slalom is followed by Shiffrin’s slalom title defence, the super-G, downhill, combined and team events. It is a schedule the American herself could have scripted to maximise her chance of bagging multiple medals. “But I’m not actually sure whether I’ll have the energy to do (all) that,” she says. “Right now I’m focusing on giant slalom and slalom and after that switching the focus to speed.”
Work, work, work
Shiffrin won slalom gold at the 2014 Sochi olympics in Sochi at the age of 18, a year after she won the first of her three consecutive world slalom titles. She admits that the last four years have passed in a haze. “It’s crazy how fast the time has gone,” she says. “It feels now like Sochi was yesterday. It’s insane how I can get to this place and, not forget, but not remember every single detail of how much work that we’ve put into it in the last four years to get to this spot and to have the opportunity to be able to compete in five events at these olympics.”
Rebensburg bids for second gold
Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg is bidding for a second gold and third medal in the discipline having won in Vancouver at the age of 20 and picked up a bronze in Sochi. “The giant slalom is the most competitive for the women,” says Rebensburg, with only Italian Deborah Compagnoni having previously won two golds (1994, 1998).
Worley, La Squadra lurk
France’s reigning world GS champion Tessa Worley and a formidable Italian quartet, as well as Rebensburg, mean Shiffrin’s task is far from a fait accompli. “To be quite simple in what I’m doing is how I get to perform better, and then I have to stay focused in the moments when I really need to,” says Worley, born to a French mother and Australian father. Italy will be spearheaded by Soffia Goggia, accompanied by Federica Brignone, Marta Bassino and Manuela Moelgg.
Yongpyong, established resort
Unlike the purpose-built Jeongseon course, controversially carved through a forest for the men and women’s speed events, the Yongpyong venue has a longer history, dating back to 1975 and South Korea’s oldest and largest ski resort. Competition courses were constructed in 1998 for the 1999 Asian Winter Games. It has also hosted World Cup events in 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006.
Provided by AFP Sport