chloe kim
Getty Images

Chloe Kim soars to gold in women’s halfpipe

Leave a comment

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — Chloe Kim’s coronation is complete.

The 17-year-old from Torrance, California, dominated the Olympic women’s halfpipe snowboarding final on Tuesday, soaring to a gold medal four years in the making.

Kim put up a score of 93.75 on the first of her three finals runs and then bettered it with a near-perfect 98.75 on her last run with the gold already well in hand. With members of her family in the stands, including her South Korean grandmother, Kim put on a show that delivered on her considerable pre-Olympic hype.

Liu Jiayu took silver with an 89.75 to become the first Chinese snowboarder to medal at the Olympics.

American Arielle Gold, who pondered retirement last summer, edged teammate and three-time Olympic medalist Kelly Clark for bronze.

VIDEO: Watch Chloe Kim’s gold-clinching run

Kim’s parents were born in South Korea and moved to the United States, putting their daughter in an interesting position heading into her first Olympics.

While she understands the urge to build a narrative around her that turns her into a connective tissue of sorts between the host country and the one she calls home, it’s one she has politely sidestepped. She views herself as just a kid from Southern California who likes music, the mall, ice cream and, oh, by the way, putting down the kind of gravity-escaping, physics challenging runs that have made her a dominant force in her sport.

Kim would have made the Olympic team with ease four years ago, only to have the calendar get in the way. She was 13 at the time, too young to make the trip to Russia. She entered the quadrennium between the games with the kind of expectations reserved for the Shaun Whites of the snowboarding world. She has exceeded every one.

Standing atop the hill at calm and brilliant Phoenix Snow Park — a stark contrast to the windy mess that turned the women’s slopestyle final into an ugly, borderline unsafe and crash-filled mess 24 hours earlier — Kim looked down at the crowd that included her parents, three sisters, three aunts, two cousins and her grandmother Moon Jung and proceeded to waste little time while turning the final into a global coming-out party.

MORE: Chloe Kim sure could go for some ice cream

She drilled her opening set, throwing in a 1080 — basically, three twists high above the pipe — before following it with a pair of flips (or “corks”). Kim celebrated at the end, pumping her fists as “USA!” ”USA!” chants rained down. When her score flashed, she clasped her hands atop her head and drank in the moment.

Kim’s teammates made serious bids to give the Americans only their fourth-ever Olympic podium sweep.

Gold, who dislocated her right shoulder during training for the Sochi Olympics and didn’t compete then barely made the 12-woman final, brushed off a fall during her first run and stomped an 85.75 on her third run. Clark, the 2002 Olympic champion still going strong at age 34, couldn’t quite catch Gold with an 83.50.

Jiayu came the closest to providing Kim with a serious threat. She drilled an 89.75 during her first set to take the lead, only to watch Kim top it during her first run moments later.

Jiayu then washed out on her last trip down the longest Olympic halfpipe since the sport made its debut in 1998, turning Kim’s last run into a victory lap. Rather than playing it safe, she went for it. Her No. 1 bib soaring into the South Korean sky, she put on a display that left the rest of the field and the thousands packed near the finish roaring their approval.

Kim’s score of 98.75 flirted with perfection. Fitting in a way because Kim is as close to it as anyone in her sport.

VIDEO: More from snowboarding in PyeongChang

 

How Arianna Fontana quietly skated into short track history

Arianna Fontana
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Arianna Fontana is silently one of the greatest short track skaters in Olympic history.

Her numbers at the Games speak for themselves; one gold, two silver, and five bronze. Those eight total medals make her the most decorated female short track skater by two medals, and tie her with legends Apolo Ohno and Viktor Ahn for most Olympic medals ever won by a short track skater.

But it is her numbers outside the Olympic stage that really call attention to her Olympic success. She is a 14-time world medalist, which is no small feat, but her podium appearances are spread over a 12-year competitive career. Someone like Elise Christie, for example, has won 12 world championships medals in just five years. And also unlike Christie, Fontana has never won an overall title.

But Christie struggled on the sport’s biggest stage in both Sochi and PyeongChang, and has yet to win her first Olympic medal. Fontana, on the other hand, has become such a consistent podium presence over the last two Games that she almost makes it look easy.

Before retiring from competition, Ohno won 21 world medals, eight of them gold. Ahn, still competing but not one of the athletes invited to competed at the PyeongChang Olympics as an Olympic Athlete from Russia, has to date has won 35 world medals, 20 of which were gold.

Fontana does not come from a short track power like South Korea or China, perhaps another reason why she is not more notorious.

Most of her medals are bronze, which could be used as a strike against her, but just ask Lindsey Vonn how hard she worked to get hers this year.

Fontana’s first medal came at the 2006 Torino Olympics, when she helped the Italian women to bronze in the 3000m relay at just 15 years old. Fontana earned her first individual medal, a bronze in the 500m, four years later in Vancouver.

But in Sochi, she exploded, making the podium in three out of four events: the 500m, where she won silver, and the 1500m and 3000m relay, where she picked up two more bronzes.

“I thought I was going to win a gold medal in Sochi but I still don’t have that,” Fontana said to the ISU in early 2017. “That’s there up in my mind and sometimes it comes out and says, ‘Hey, you still miss me? So come get me!'”.

But after the 2014-15 season, Fontana’s desire for gold was eclipsed by something else: burnout.

“I was pretty tired mentally. My body was ready to race again but my mind was not. It was hard for me. After the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, I had some doubts about whether to keep skating or not,” Fontana said to the ISU. “Maybe it would have been better to take that year right after the Olympic Games off, but I decided to keep going. It is not that I regret it, but I had some hard times that season.”

She stayed active during her time off, learning how to box, which eased the transition back to skating.

Her pursuit for gold was what motivated her comeback, and in 2018 Fontana got what she came back for.

“When I saw I was first, I was just yelling and started crying. I worked for four years and the last four months were really hard for me. I was really focused on getting here in the best shape ever,” Fontana said after earning the 500m Olympic title.

“I was chasing it and finally I got it.”

In addition to her 500m gold medal, Fontana also added a 1000m bronze and 3000m relay bronze.

Fontana has spoken about retirement, but has not made a definitive decision. She will only be 31 years old by the time 2022 rolls around, so she could feasibly add to her medal haul if she competes. What she has made clear is that when she does leave the sport she hopes to become a personal trainer.

Whenever she does retire Fontana should be considered not only one of the greatest Italian athletes or greatest short track skaters, but also one of the greatest Winter Olympians.

How to watch Closing Ceremony of 2018 Winter Olympics

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Another Olympics is in the books.

The PyeongChang Closing Ceremony will cap off the 2018 Winter Games Sunday morning, beginning at 6 a.m. ET / 3 a.m. PT with a live stream of the events.

Jessie Diggins has been named the U.S. flag bearer after an incredibly gutsy performance to take home the country’s first-ever gold medal in Cross-Country.

How, when and where to watch the Closing Ceremony

Stream LIVE on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app: Sunday at 6 a.m. ET / 3 a.m. PT (Stream here)

The live stream will feature all the sights and sounds of the Closing Ceremony without any commentary.

Watch on TV: Sunday at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on NBC (Stream here)

The Olympic figure skating commentating trio of Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir and Terry Gannon will host the Closing Ceremony on NBC in primetime beginning at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT.

“It’s a huge honor and privilege,” Lipinski said. “I’m so excited to embark on this new and exciting adventure and bring the Closing Ceremony to the U.S.”

“This is a glorious and unexpected experience that I can’t wait to get fancy for!” Weir said.

Mike Tirico – NBC’s primetime host throughout the PyeongChang Games – hosted the Closing Ceremony for Rio in 2016 alongside Ryan Seacrest and Mary Carillo.

Tirico and Katie Couric hosted the PyeongChang Opening Ceremony in South Korea two weeks ago.

Sunday night’s primetime edition of the Closing Ceremony will also feature simulstreams on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app. (Stream here)