Chloe Kim’s road to Olympic greatness was paved by her dad.
Kim, who at 17 won a gold medal in the halfpipe at the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang to become the youngest female Olympic gold medalist in snowboarding history, says her father played a big role in helping her get to where she is.
“My dad used to buy me oversized pants and I was, like, seven,” she told TODAY's Savannah Guthrie. “He would cut up my mom’s yoga mats and make like little butt pads out of them ... to cushion my falls.”
Kim, now 21, is focused on defending her gold medal at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, even if her family won’t be on hand to support her.
“I’m so used to having my family at the bottom of the pipe at almost every competition, so it’ll be weird not having them there, but I think I got it,” she said. “I’m probably going to call them a thousand times a day. I’m going to call my dad if practice is stressing me out. He’ll always be there for me.”
Kim has returned for a second act in Beijing, but there was no guarantee that she would suit up for the Olympics again. The fame she achieved after Pyeongchang came with challenges, and she considered skipping the 2022 games.
“Definitely did,” she said. “My first one was really overwhelming; I was not expecting that kind of response.”
While the emotional fallout was tough, she managed to find herself after enrolling at Princeton University.
“So, then I kind of got scared, I got really bad anxiety,” she said. “And I was like ‘OK, maybe I can’t do that again, because I just don’t know if I can handle it.’ But that’s why I went to school, and that really gave me a good reset.”
Kim, who begins her quest for another gold Tuesday night, says she was a celebrity at school before she managed to find her own group of friends who didn’t know about her athletic prowess or that she had become the first woman snowboarder to hit back-to-back 1080s.
“The minute I stepped onto campus people were running up to me asking me for photos and autographs and I was like, ‘I just want to be a student. I don’t want to be Chloe Kim the snowboarder,’” she said.
The stress Kim felt became so much to handle that she ended up taking two years off from snowboarding.
“Honestly, I think I hated it for the first time in my life,” she said. “Post-Olympics, every conversation I had with anyone was always about snowboarding, like nothing about myself. And I’m like, ‘Alright, if that’s all you care about then I’m out.’”
Kim said she had promised herself she would return to the sport if she missed it while at school. She now finds herself in Beijing, ready to show the world once again what she can do.
“Yeah, I’ve learned three new tricks, so I’m really excited. I’m hoping to put them all in a run at the Olympics,” she said.
She also has an appreciation for snowboarding.
“Personally, I get to push myself and I can set my own goals and work towards them and achieve them,” she said. “It’s the best feeling. I’m excited.”