Kim has been beating the competition for years, but on Tuesday at Phoenix Snow Park she fully revealed her talent and charisma to a broad audience. She dazzled from the start with a score of 93.75 on her first run, and no one came close to beating that mark. On her third and final run, with the gold medal clinched, she wanted to “one-up myself,” she said later. She did, with a victory lap that included her signature back-to-back 1080s, three spins off one wall of the pipe followed by three more on the other. That run scored 98.25 from the judges.
“I knew that if I went home with a gold medal knowing I could do better, I wasn’t going to be very satisfied,” Kim said at the bottom of the pipe.
Pressure? Before that late-morning run, Kim had logged on to Twitter to tell her growing legion of fans that she was hungry.
“Just trying to distract myself” to ease the nerves, she said.
The silver went to Liu Jiayu of China, with 89.75. Arielle Gold of the United States had a strong third run, scoring 85.75, to to knock her countrywoman Kelly Clark out of the bronze medal position. Clark, who scored 83.50 on her third run, finished fourth at her fifth Olympic Games — she also has a gold from 2002 and two bronze medals.
Kim, born and raised in Southern California as the daughter of South Korean immigrants, was warmly adopted by fans from the host country. On a sunny morning, she received the biggest ovation when introduced before her first run, and when she reached the bottom with a clean run and a bright smile, she was greeted by the sound of cheers and cowbells.