Chloe Kim arrived at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea to unfathomable expectations. The South Korean media mobbed the American snowboarder, whose parents immigrated to southern California from South Korea, as she arrived here last week for the Olympic halfpipe competition. Officials exited her from the airport discreetly, to avoid the pack. The pressure from the fans in South Korea and those back home was enough to crush most high school seniors. Yet Kim knew the stakes—and she was determined to deliver. “It’s the freaking Olympics,” Kim told TIME during an interview before the Olympics. “I’ve got to nail.”
Did she ever. With her South Korean extended family cheering on from the bottom of the hill, Kim won the Olympic gold medal in the halfpipe competition at the Phoenix Snow Park Tuesday morning, overwhelming her opponents with a stunning aerial display.
Team USA has now swept all three of the snowboard golds at the PyeongChang Games: Red Gerard and Jamie Anderson won men’s and women’s slopestyle events the previous two days.
Kim began her charm offensive during the Monday qualifiers, as she tweeted from the mountain, during her competition, about her craving for a snack. “Could be down for some ice cream,” Kim wrote. The day before, she shared her anxiety on social media. “I’m so nervous,” Kim wrote. She also shared her secret to staying calm.”Oh and I also had 2 churros today and they were pretty bomb so if you ever get nervous go eat a churro.” Naturally.
Besides fried dough, how did Kim cope with expectations? “I don’t really think about it as pressure,” Kim says. “I always try to see it in positive way, like, you know what, the people that are expecting so much about of me, know I can do it and believe in me. So I just kind of think about it like that. And it makes me feel a little better.” She’s most calm when she’s in the pipe, doing death-defying tricks that astound her audience.
“I don’t feel that much fear,” Kim says. That’s why she sits atop podium, America’s newest Olympic star.