(Photo above: Chloe Kim sending a massive method into the air at the start of her halfpipe run. Photo: Laemmerhirt.)
Tactical snowboard strategy disguised behind the lighthearted demeanor of a 16-year-old.
Chloe Kim stunned the field, once again, with her triumphant performance in Switzerland this past Saturday at the LAAX OPEN 2017. Kim's strategic self-control in the Superpipe earned her an eighth consecutive win in less than a year, and she seems to be getting better with each showing.
Steady as she goes, Kim never seems rattled when she is approaching the top of the pipe for her first run. However, she was not feeling her usual confidence coming into the halfpipe finals despite riding what most were referring to as a perfect pipe.
"I was definitely struggling a little bit during practice today, so I was a little bit nervous," spouted Kim, once her win was set in stone. "I am so happy that I put one run down in the contest."
Modesty appears to be another trick she has nailed, as Kim is clearly capable of shattering expectations at any moment. And, as it turns out, she landed two runs in the contest, both of which were good enough to earn her first place.
Still, coming into the final at LAAX OPEN 2017 there were a number of riders struggling to connect the dots from wall to wall during practice. Last year's Women's Halfpipe champion, Arielle Gold, also mentioned having a "rough" warmup session. Gold kept her cool, though, and found her way onto the podium by the event's end.
The difference that kept Gold from defending her LAAX OPEN title and allowed Kim to take the win—Kim nailed her first run with her signature amplitude and graceful grabs.
Sure, it was Kim's second run score that ultimately earned her the win on the weekend. But, it was Kim's first run that set the bar out of reach for her competitors while still giving her room to raise it.
Kim's best run began with a monster method to setup for a picture perfect frontside 1080 tail grab, and from there she would land back-to-back switch 540s before ending with a cab 720 stalefish. Her second run locked her in for the win while setting her up to remind everyone she still has more to show, though she fell on a 1080.
Kim was only one of four women to land a 1080 during the LAAX OPEN 2017 final, in addition to Kelly Clark, Jiayu Liu, and Queralt Castellet. However, unlike any other woman to ride a snowboard in the Superpipe, Kim is the only one to ever land back-to-back 1080s in competition.
"I was really excited about my victory lap. Obviously I wanted to do better than in my second run, but unfortunately I fell on the 1080," said Kim. "But you know, I’m just trying to beat myself."
Though she has yet to repeat the feat she first laid claim to last year, Kim knows that the single trick or even landing it back-to-back is not what is most important—it is knowing when it is right to try.