Olympic favorite Chloe Kim puts a year-long halfpipe winning streak on the line at Winter X Games on Saturday night.
Kim, 16, goes for her third straight title in Aspen, Colo., and her eighth straight halfpipe victory overall. The streak started at last year’s X Games, where Kim scored 95 points to easily top Olympian Arielle Gold, who tallied 85.
Kim continued to rack up comfortable victories since (runner-up’s score):
2016 Park City Grand Prix — 100 points (Maddie Mastro, 92)
2016 Youth Olympics — 96.5 points (Emily Arthur, 90)
2016 X Games Oslo — 98 points (Kelly Clark, 82.33)
2016 U.S. Open — 89.37 points (Cai Xuetong, 82.99)
2016 Copper Mountain Grand Prix — 95.5 points (Liu Jiayu, 91)
2017 Laax Open — 90.5 points (Arielle Gold, 86.5)
Kim was a budding prodigy four years ago. She had not yet competed at the X Games, but at 13 years old she performed well enough at 2014 Olympic qualifying to be a podium contender in Sochi. Alas, Kim was too young to compete in those Winter Games.
She has since won back-to-back X Games halfpipes, unseating Kelly Clark, a three-time Olympic medalist and the greatest female snowboarder of all time. Clark was the last rider to beat Kim, at Kim’s native Mammoth Mountain, Calif., on Jan. 24, 2016.
“Definitely not, I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Kim said of her overwhelming success. “I always looked up to Kelly and [2010 Olympic champion] Torah Bright and Arielle Gold when I was like, 10.”
Clark didn’t win back-to-back X Games titles until she was 28 years old. Shaun White didn’t repeat until he was 22 years old.
Neither Clark nor White ever entered the Olympics winning all of their contests in the previous two years, which Kim could very well accomplish.
For now Kim is focused on X Games, keeping media commitments to a minimum in Aspen this week. The invited riders list includes all but one of the runners-up to Kim during her seven-contest streak.
Kim’s parents emigrated from South Korea, host of the 2018 Olympics, and she grew up in a Korean-speaking household. Kim and her father, Jong Jin, began snowboarding at the same time.
“Chloe was 4, I was 48,” he said last fall. “I was better than her, maybe one year. Right about a year later, she passed me.”
She has since passed everyone else.
NBC Olympic researcher Rachel Thompson contributed to this report.Follow @nzaccardi
*Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, Calif., in February is an Olympic qualifier. It is for ski and snowboard slopestyle and snowboard slopestyle, but not snowboard halfpipe.