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American snowboarders soar above expectations at Olympics

Seventeen-year-old American snowboarder Chloe Kim dazzled the 2018 Winter Olympics with her aerial acrobatics and athletic spins, winning a gold medal on Monday. Jeffrey Brown talks with Eddie Pells of the Associated Press about Kim, the daughter of South Korean immigrants, as well as several other snowboarding standouts in Pyeongchang.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    If you have been watching the snowboarding competitions at the Winter Games in South Korea the past few nights, there’s no other way to describe some of those feats as than simply amazing.

    The U.S. snowboarding team is collecting quite a few medals and, as Jeffrey Brown is here to discuss, features some compelling personal stories, including gold medal winner Chloe Kim.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    The expectations were already sky-high for the 17- year-old coming into these Olympics. Last night, she became the focus of international attention with a dazzling display of aerial acrobatics and athletic turns.

    Eddie Pells was there covering the Olympics for the AP. And he joins me now via Skype.

    Eddie, expectations high, but more than met, right? Tell us about it.

  • Eddie Pells:

    Yes, I would say way more than met.

    She went out there and basically essentially won the gold medal on her first run, and had the whole thing secured and then, you know, for her last run, didn’t need to do anything. But, you know, it’s a snowboarding mantra that if you don’t do your best, the result doesn’t matter.

    So she went out there and did basically the hardest run we have ever seen a woman do on a halfpipe, landed it perfectly. And then she could walk away with the gold medal and being able to say, hey, I put my best stuff out there.

    And to a lot of people, that’s really what snowboarding is all about.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    She’s also, of course, the child of South Korean immigrants and now winning gold in South Korea.

    How is that playing over there?

  • Eddie Pells:

    It’s playing huge. In South Korea, they love their sports stars. They don’t have a million of them, but Yuna Kim. They have got all kinds of female golfers.

    And they will adopt Chloe. She’s a California kid, but she knows the story line. This is where her parents are from. This is where her grandma still lives. And they’re loving it. She’s ready to go. She’s going to be a star in South Korea. She probably already was a big one in America.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    And what makes her stand out, especially in a sport where the risks get ever greater?

  • Eddie Pells:

    Yes.

    You know, I think she’s small and she’s smiley and she’s got a bubbly personality, but, you know, you shouldn’t let that overshadow the fact that she works really hard. I mean, she is first one out on the halfpipe in the morning, and she’s the last one out there practicing at night.

    She knows what the risks are. And she’s been — you know, for the last 10 years or more, been taking these calculated steps up in progression, and really, you know, also is the most athletic woman out there doing this stuff.

    So, you know, there’s always this reputation of snowboarders being these kind of dudes who are just out there, who cares. No, she’s a professional. She has been working hard, and she is pretty athletic. She’d probably be a great tennis player, too. Whatever.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    And Americans are continuing to dominate this sport.

    Just take us quickly through a couple of the other great performances you have seen this week.

  • Eddie Pells:

    Well, on the first day, we had Red Gerard, another 17-year-old, on the slopestyle course. He’s the kid who basically set up an action park in his backyard, where he learned all his best tricks.

    And he went out there. And that was a little bit of an upset. The second day at slopestyle, the great Jamie Anderson won her second gold medal. The weather was really bad. A lot of people were complaining, but we were talking how these people are real pros.

    She went out there in bad condition, and put down a run that she knew would win. And that was pretty exciting.

    And then we had Chloe. Also, Arielle Gold finished third on the halfpipe yesterday, and then told us all that she had a separated shoulder, by the way.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Wow.

    And now, of course, the most famous name in the sport is Shaun White going tonight. What are the stakes for him this time?

  • Eddie Pells:

    He wouldn’t deny it. This is everything to him.

    Again, a lot of these snowboarders like to talk about they don’t love contest snow. Sean, the Olympics means everything. He won two in a row. Four years ago, it was a messy Olympics for him. He finished fourth on the halfpipe. He didn’t accomplish any of his goals.

    And he basically, the day after he left Russia, said, you know, I’m going to do it in four years.

    This is really the only thing he cares about right now competitively. And it’s going to be a great contest. There’s a couple other kids, Ayumu Hirano from Japan, Scotty James from Australia.

    We may see a classic, never-before-seen kind of contest tonight, if the weather is good, and I think it will be.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    All right, we will be watching.

    Eddie Pells of the AP, from South Korea, thanks so much.

  • Eddie Pells:

    All right, thank you.

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