Snowboarders gathered from around the world at the freshly carved Superpipe in PyeongChang, South Korea for a huge weekend as the final stop of the 2016-17 World Cup halfpipe series also acted as the official, and telling, test event for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
Chloe Kim arrived in PyeongChang looking to earn the first-ever World Cup Crystal Globe of her career. Following her fourth place qualifying performance on Friday, Kim had already secured enough points to lock in the title. The World Cup pressure was off.
Still, Kim returned to the Bokwang Phoenix Park Resort to complete the event and take advantage of the crucial practice time in the Olympic halfpipe to be.
Following Sochi, halfpipe conditions have become a huge question mark for the competitors looking to perform well at the Olympic Winter Games. However, athletes were pleased to find the South Korean Superpipe to be nearly perfect in comparison to the previous Olympic halfpipe that was riddled with bumps in the flat bottom and soft walls with inconsistent lips. Instead, athletes such as Shaun White referred to it as, "one of the best pipes of the season."
As the final stop for the 2016-17 World Cup halfpipe series began on Sunday, the women rode first and in the reverse order that they qualified. This placed Kim as the third rider to drop while leaving the two-time Olympic Gold medalist and three-time Olympic test event champion, Kelly Clark, to drop last after qualifying first.
On her opening run of three, Kim stood at the top of the pipe grinning wide and singing to herself while she waited. After receiving the okay to go, Kim made her final adjustments and dropped in only to bail on her first backside air attempt. Similar to Maddie Mastro who dropped just before her, Kim seemed okay in the air but as she came in to land of the first wall she had trouble setting down and washed out.
After Kim went China's top duo both landing their first runs. Xuetong Cai went first and earned an 86.5, then Jiayu Liu put down a 91.5 with a 900 and back-to-back 720s to place her in first for the time being. The last to drop for the first set of runs was Clark, and she held nothing back. With huge amplitude on her opening frontside air and a 1080 midway through, Clark's run was clean and earned her a temporary second place with an 89.5.
Coming into the second runs, the attitude around the pipe seemed to stiffen.
Waiting quietly without her usual signs of lightheartedness, Kim dropped in to lay down a run without a single bobble. However, with Kim's run only consisting of four tricks, her flawless 1080 didn't give her enough to break into a podium position. Nevertheless, Kim laid down the run she needed to build from. It was a smart run, but it only earned her an 82.5 and the fourth spot.
Cai and Liu both slipped up on their second run attempts, not providing them any change in score. Clark, however, did manage to up her first run score, and with a five-trick run that boasted another perfect 1080 she found a score of 94 to bump her from second to first.
With everything coming down to the third and final runs, Kim knew she needed to add one more major trick to her last run to take the lead. Then, Kim stumbled again on the first wall and bailed on her opening backside air. She had missed the podium at the Olympic Winter Games test event, while Clark earned her fourth consecutive test event victory.
In the end, though, Kim seemed pleased with herself.
Kim rode out of the weekend in South Korea with first first-ever World Cup Cystal Globe, and despite not earning a podium in the test event she rode smart. Kim has had an interesting season, and it is not over yet. What started out with back-to-back wins has slowly waned to a series of smart choices with less illustrious finishes.
Still, the most important takeaway from Kim's season thus far is her calm attitude and smart decisions when the pressure is on. She may not win them all, but at 16 years young she doesn't need to. She has bigger goals than that.
More from Chloe Kim:
Chloe Kim Finishes Third at X Games
Chloe Kim Wins Again, Licks LAAX Open 2017
Chloe Kim Dominates 2016 Toyota Grand Prix At Copper Mountain
Chloe Kim Beyond the Bibs part one
Chloe Kim Beyond the Bibs part two