Last February, as the sports world converged on Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Winter Olympics, one of the best halfpipe snowboarders in the world made the trip to Pyeongchang, South Korea, instead. Chloe Kim had just earned a silver medal at X Games Aspen—defeating eventual Olympic champion Kaitlyn Farrington—but at 13, she was too young to compete in Sochi. So she and her parents, who emigrated from South Korea before Kim was born, boarded a 13-hour flight so she could start prepping for the 2018 Games; Kim, now 14, is expected to be a heavy favorite.
FAST START: Kim threw her first backflip off a natural feature at age six and landed a rare switch McTwist (one and a half spins upside down, launched while riding backward) in the pipe five years later, leading Burton to sponsor her. Last winter she became the youngest World Snowboard Tour overall champion ever, evoking comparisons to another all-around super-star: Shaun White. “Her potential is pretty much infinite,” says Elijah Teter, who coached Farrington to her gold medal last winter. “At the next Olympics, she could podium in both slopestyle and halfpipe.”
STRONG FINISH: Kim has already built a reputation as a clutch performer. (She credits her good-luck charm: fancy fingernail paint.) “Don’t be fooled by her laughing and smiling all the time,” says her coach, Ben Wisner. “When she drops in, she does it to stomp and win.”
UP NEXT: Kim will look to improve on her silver at this month’s X Games Aspen. (Last year she finished 0.67 of a point shy of four-time defending champion Kelly Clark.) She’ll likely medal again, but Kim keeps her ambitions in check. “I try not to expect too much,” she says. “I just want to land a run and not embarrass myself out there. The results will come later.”