PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – Chloe Kim’s dad repeated one word as his daughter stood at the top of the Olympic halfpipe for her victory lap, gold medal already assured.
“Imugi!” Jong-Jin Kim yelled, standing well behind the finish corral. “Imugi!”
Earlier Tuesday morning, Jong texted his 17-year-old daughter, a first generation Korean-American, before the biggest contest of her life.
“Today is the day imugi turns to dragon,” Jong said he messaged her. “She said hahahahaha, thank you very much.”
It’s a story that Kim has heard over and over again, according to an ESPN profile.
“She was born in year of dragon,” Jong continued Tuesday morning. “To be a dragon in Korean tradition is to wait 1,000 years. Before [you are] a simple snake, like an anaconda. But they wait about 1,000 years, and then they turn to dragon. Go to the sky, and they make a big dragon with a gold pearl. She’s got a gold pearl in her mouth. I texted her this morning that this is the time to be dragon.”
Kim did just that. Her dad predicted from the bottom that she was nervous, but Kim put down a pair of 90-plus point runs, including the first back-to-back 1080s in Olympic women’s competition.
Kim also scored in the 90s in both of her Monday qualifying runs.
The pre-event favorite blew away the field – even tweeted between runs that she was hangry – to become the youngest female Olympic champion on snow ever.
China's Liu Jiayu took silver with 89.75 points. American Arielle Gold earned bronze with 85.75.
In just about every one of the too-many-to-count profiles before these Olympics, another story has been told.
Kim’s parents immigrated to the U.S. in 1998, though Jong previously moved to the U.S. when he was 26 to start an engineering degree at California State University, Long Beach.
Jong watched a snowboarding contest in Switzerland when Kim was 8 and realized that his daughter could do some of the same tricks. So he quit his job in engineering to support her.
Jong would drive her six hours each way on weekends to Mammoth Mountain in California, forming a makeshift bed for Kim in the back seat of their SUV.
On Tuesday, Kim screamed with several family members – Kim’s mom, two sisters, three aunts (one from Switzerland), two cousins and a 75-year-old grandmother who drove in from Seoul the morning of the contest.
"I learned after the second run that my grandma was in the finish. I said 'this one's for you grams'"
Jong held a flimsy white poster covered in plastic that read “Go Chloe” scribbled in pink, purple, green, yellow and black marker with a red heart.
It was given to him by young snowboarders from the California resort of Mountain High. Kim started her riding there at age 4 and competed as a member of the team at age 6.
“I’m going to bring that to Los Angeles and give [the poster back] to them,” Jong said. “This is an Olympic thing. You have to keep this at Mountain High.”
Later Tuesday afternoon, Kim laughed when explaining how her dad texts – phone held in his outstretched hand, tapping the screen with the index finger from his other hand.
“[My dad] was like, let’s be a dragon today!” Kim said of the pre-contest text. “I was like, ok, no pressure or anything, but I’ll try my best. Just emerge from the earth. … Something has to be right about it. It turned out pretty well. If I’m a dragon, I’m down.”
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