Fans go ga-ga over Amer­i­can ‘icon’ Chloe

New Straits Times - - SPORT -

PYEONGCHANG: Chloe Kim is the Cal­i­for­nia beach girl with the bub­blegum smile and bleach­blonde hair who shred­ded to Olympic snow­board­ing gold — and be­came the twinkly-eyed face of the Pyeongchang Games.

The bub­bly 17-year-old with Korean par­ents and a mis­chievous wit trig­gered ‘Chloe-ma­nia’ as swoon­ing lo­cals adopted her as one of their own in the ab­sence of a truly tran­scen­dent ath­lete such as re­tired fig­ure skater Kim Yuna.

With Lady Gaga’s “Pa­parazzi” play­ing in her ear­phones, Chloe set a blis­ter­ing pace in Tues­day’s half­pipe fi­nal, storm­ing to gold with a charm and grace that will leave a last­ing im­pres­sion long af­ter the Olympic flame has gone out.

“Some­one has to be snow­board­ing’s face and an icon — I think they just got it in her.”

Tales of how Chloe’s big­gest fan — her Seoul-based grand­mother — boasts about Chloe’s ex­ploits over tea to her fel­low church-go­ers melted hearts.

Proud dad, Jong Jin Kim, went vi­ral af­ter he was spot­ted wav­ing a hand-made sign which read “Go, Chloe!”

Smit­ten fans, many of them Korean, chanted: “Chloe Kim, Chloe Kim!”

But the se­ri­ous busi­ness of chas­ing a gold medal took an emo­tional toll.

With vic­tory as­sured be­fore her fi­nal run, the enor­mity of her achieve­ment sud­denly hit her.

“I was tear­ing up, I wanted to cry,” ad­mit­ted the four-time X Games cham­pion, who was so good at 13 she might have won gold in Sochi.

Two years un­der the min­i­mum age re­quire­ment then, fate de­creed she would get her chance in Pyeongchang, mean­ing grandma could cheer her on for the first time.

“It’s so good do­ing it in front of my par­ents,” said Chloe, the first woman to nail back-to-back 1080 de­gree spins at the Games.

“It means a lot just be­ing able to do it where my fam­ily is from.”

On­line re­ac­tion to Chloe’s suc­cess in South Korea was largely pos­i­tive, some liken­ing her ef­fort­less bril­liance to Kim Yuna, who won fig­ure skat­ing gold at the 2010 Van­cou­ver Olympics.

Oth­ers noted Chloe would be cram­ming for col­lege en­trance ex­ams had she grown up in Seoul in­stead of Cal­i­for­nia, while a small mi­nor­ity blasted lo­cal me­dia for try­ing to claim the ath­lete as “Korean.”

What is clear is that life will never be the same for Chloe Kim, snow­board­ing’s new rock star.

Nike, Toy­ota, and Visa are among com­pa­nies that al­ready spon­sor Chloe, and her mar­ket­ing appeal is set to ex­plode.

“She was def­i­nitely a name go­ing into the Olympics, and now she’s an even big­ger one,” said Lindsey.

“Brands will want to cap­i­talise on her gold.”

Chloe, whose fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram and Twit­ter dou­bled to 500,000 and 220,000 since the start of the Games, left the Phoenix snow­board park in a daze.

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