After closing out her competitive Superpipe season with a title defending performance during the 2017 Burton US Open at Vail, Colorado Chloe Kim said she was simply, "happy to start feeling normal again."
Coming out of Thursday's semi-final, Kim had qualified in first place for Saturday's final. Without the help of the coveted 1080, Kim managed to place herself ahead of Maddie Mastro by just one point, while Kelly Clark qualified third, respectively.
Before the start of the final on Saturday, Clark suffered a fall while practicing a frontside 1080 that forced her to sit out of the main event. Despite qualifying with 15-foot frontside airs, Clark had been riding with the flu throughout the week, which finally caught up with her when she hit the deck during practice.
With only five women left to compete in the final, Kim watched as the first four took their runs.
The bar was set by Japan's Sena Tomita. Competing for her first time internationally, Tomita opened her run with a commanding frontside 900 on the first wall straight into a backside 540 and back-to-back 720s. Tomita's first run scored her a 76.62 and a temporary lead.
When it was Kim's turn to drop in, she put her competition strategy to work. This season has proved Kim to be master of knowing when to push her riding and when to hold back.
While Jack Mitrani referred to it as a "safety run," Kim opened up with a monster backside air, frontside 900 into a McTwist and back-to-back 720s. Everything looked effortless, and for that, she received a score of 77.12 jumping her up to the top of the leaderboard.
"I FEEL LIKE I CAN ALWAYS PUSH MYSELF A LITTLE MORE."
As the second set of runs unfolded, Maddie Mastro—who went down on her first run—was the only rider able to better Kim's score. Mastro's standout trick was her second back-to-back 720. Instead of spinning flat, Mastro stomped an inverted Haakonen flip with impressive amplitude. Though her trick difficulty score was not very high, Mastro's amplitude and overall impression were enough to earn her a 78.25 to lead.
Kim dropped in for her second run in second place and made the strategic decision to switch it up entirely.
Still opening with a huge backside air, Kim replaced the frontside 900 with a tail grab 1080 before spinning a Cab stalefish 720 and frontside 540 to now leave the McTwist to finish.
Kim raised the bar on every judging criteria—amplitude, execution, difficulty, overall impression—and was awarded a much higher score of 86.87 for her efforts.
Elena Hight was the next rider to challenge for the lead. With dialed back-to-back 720s and 900s as well as an alley-oop backside rodeo, Hight pushed herself into second place with a score of 80.12 on her third and final run.
Mastro was the last rider left to upset Kim.
After improving the opening of her run with a giant frontside 900, Mastro clipped the deck while trying the Haakon flip.
As the only woman to land a 1080 that day, Kim took a victory lap for her final run and still managed to improve her score. After another backside air, tail grab 1080 and a Cab stalefish 720, she replaced the frontside 540 with a 900 to lead into the McTwist on the final wall.
"I feel like I can always push myself a little more," said Kim, after her final scored came in at an improved 87.12. "I'm just so hyped to be riding like myself again, it has been a little rough these past few weeks."
Admittedly happy to be finished with a crazy season full of international travel, Kim chalked up her repeat win, and "feeling normal again," to the good weather, the down time she had just spent at home with her puppy and to feeling good on her board.
The only thing she left out of her winning recipe was her developing competition strategy. But that was probably intentional.
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