The first time I met Chloe Kim, she instantly reminded me of my little sister. Growing up as a Korean American, it was rare to see a person in the mainstream media who reminded me of someone in my family. When I told other Koreans about Kim before her breakout at the Winter Olympics, they reacted the same way.
A Korean American? The best snowboarder in the world? Is that for real?
With one trip down the halfpipe in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Kim quickly answered that question, posting a higher score than the rest of the field. On top of her gold medal, a couple of tweets about ice cream and hunger quickly propelled Kim to stardom. She acquired thousands of followers on Instagram and Twitter, made the cover of Sports Illustrated and appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Just like that, Kim became one of the most famous Asian American athletes ever.
The weight of the world fell on her shoulders. There were years of anticipation and hype that deemed her the best American snowboarder since Shaun White. Then there was all the pressure from Asian American fans who hoped Kim's potential success could continue to chip away at negative Asian stereotypes many have fought for generations. Then there was the media narrative: She was competing in South Korea, her parents' home country. All of this for a young woman who was just 17 years old when she made her Olympic debut.
But what's most exciting for snowboarding fans and Asian Americans isn't what Kim has already accomplished. It's the history yet to be written. Kim burst onto the scene as one of the most notable Olympians of the 2018 Games, and her success, her separation from the rest of the pack, doesn't look like it will end any time soon. For Americans, she's another dominant athlete on the international stage. For Asian Americans, she's another voice for a community that often feels marginalized in the national discourse.
Kim's gold meant more than just victory. Following around Kim's family in the Bongpyeong-myeon mountains in the aftermath of her gold medal performance, I couldn't help but see my own parents in Jong Jin and Boran Kim. Like Chloe, I was living out the furthest reaches of my dreams, covering the Olympics for the first time. While my parents were back in the United States, Jong Jin and Boran had the biggest smiles on their faces. Along with Chloe, they were an American family bringing home the gold.
Joon Lee is a staff writer for B/R Mag. Follow him on Twitter: @joonlee.
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