Natural born talent
Kim is nothing short of a phenomenon. Born to Korean parents in Long Beach (USA) on 23 April 2000, she was just four when she first rode a snowboard at the resort of Mountain High in southern California.
By the time she was six she was competing with Team Mountain High. She then spent two years, between the ages of 8 and 10, training in Switzerland before returning to her native California to hone her skills at Mammoth Mountain.
Her fast-track journey to the top continued when she made the senior USA snowboard team at 13. Though her results were good enough to qualify her for Sochi 2014, she was too young to compete at the Winter Olympics and had to content herself with a trip to the X Games in Aspen (USA), where she bagged superpipe silver.
Kim claimed her first international superpipe title at the 2015 X Games and retained it the following year with a superb score of 95 points, well clear of her compatriot Arielle Gold.
In the halfpipe event at the US Snowboarding Grand Prix Park City in February 2016, Kim became the first female boarder to land back-to-back 1080s. This combination helped her score a perfect 100. She was only the second halfpipe snowboarder in history to achieve this feat, after Shaun White at the 2012 X Games.
Living the dream in Lillehammer
Kim went on to light up the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lillehammer 2016, producing three stunning runs in the halfpipe and scoring 96.5 points on the last of them to win gold.
Five days later, she repeated the feat in the slopestyle competition at the Hafjell Freepark, turning in another magnificent display and beating her rivals by some distance to win her second gold.
“I’m just so stoked that I was able to put down all the crazy runs that I dreamed of when I was younger,” said Kim, who carried her country’s flag at the Opening Ceremony in Lillehammer.
“I set a goal for myself when I was 10: to be the first girl to do back-to-back 1080s and to go to the X Games,” she revealed. “Being able to accomplish my little-girl dreams is crazy. It’s like getting a pony.”
Back to her roots
Boosted by her YOG exploits, Kim kept the good times rolling at the start of the 2016/17 FIS Snowboard Freestyle World Cup, posting huge scores to win the halfpipe events at Copper Mountain (USA) in December and Laax (SUI) in January.
Next came a trip to her parents’ homeland for the PyeongChang 2018 halfpipe test event at Bokwang Phoenix Park, where she came fourth in a competition won by US veteran Kelly Clark.
“The halfpipe was amazing and it got me really pumped for the Olympics because a big part of our sport is the conditions,” said Kim afterwards.
“No matter how good you are, if you have a really sketchy halfpipe, you can’t really ride to your full potential. It was really comforting to know they have a good halfpipe and they know what they are doing.
“I’ve been to Korea before to visit my mum’s side of the family, they all live here. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve come to visit them, so being able to compete here is awesome. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Kim ended the 2016/17 season by winning the halfpipe small crystal globe - her first FIS title. And she kick-started the Olympic season with yet another halfpipe victory in Cardrona (NZL) in September, edging out Clark and another US team-mate, Maddie Mastro.
Based on recent form, the 17-year-old looks unstoppable, and her dream of winning an Olympic gold in front of her family at PyeongChang 2018 may well be realised.