The busiest stretch of Chloe Kim‘s life was interrupted by a trip to the emergency room in South Korea last month.
The 16-year-old U.S. snowboarding phenom had “a pretty gnarly cold” and fever right before practice started at a World Cup event at the 2018 Olympic venue in South Korea.
Kim, whose parents are from South Korea and is fluent in Korean, said she couldn’t understand any further diagnosis from a doctor. But she spent two days in the ER.
Kim was discharged and decided to compete at the contest, finishing fourth with an 82.50-point run. Kelly Clark, the three-time Olympic medalist nearly twice Kim’s age, won with 94 points.
Kim is now in Vail, Colo., for this week’s Burton U.S. Open and seems past any health problems.
“I’m hyped,” Kim, typically of few words in interviews, said Wednesday. On Thursday, she topped qualifying with a 79.62-point run heading into Saturday’s final (1 p.m. ET, BurtonUSOpen.com).
The U.S. Open is about as crucial of a contest for Kim outside of an Olympics or Olympic qualifying.
After winning seven straight halfpipe contests from January 2016 to January 2017, Kim has lost her last three outings. (One was the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, Calif., last month, when Kim qualified second and had to skip the final because it was delayed by a day and she had to fly to South Korea.)
The last month and a half — from losing at Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo., for the first time since she was 13 to Mammoth to South Korea and back to Vail — took a toll on the Olympic halfpipe favorite.
“Traveling can get pretty overwhelming,” said Kim, whose commitments include those for sponsors like Target, Toyota and the South Korean cosmetics brand Laneige. “I haven’t really been this busy before. Now I kind of know what it’s like.”
Kim refuses to dwell on the end of her winning streak. Or on any emphasis put on results, really.
“Honestly, I don’t really care that much about winning,” Kim said, echoing the cry of many riders to come before her. “I’m all about putting down a run I’m happy about. As long as I do that, I’m pretty happy with the way the day goes by.”
The U.S. Open holds special significance to Kim. She debuted in 2013 at age 12, finishing 12th, then placed third in 2014, second in 2015 and won in 2016.
“It’s always special when there’s a contest you’ve been going to for your whole life, almost,” she said.
Kim said she may compete once more this season, possibly at the world championships in Spain next week.
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