At 17 years old, most teenagers are trying to figure out who they are and what they want in life, but not Chloe Kim. The Orange County native has been a snowboarding prodigy ever since her father, Jong Jin Kim, strapped her into a board at 4 years old. Jong Jin Kim believed in his daughter’s abilities so much that he even quit his job as an engineer to drive Chloe Kim to Mammoth Mountain every weekend. To further her dream of becoming a professional snowboarder, Kim lived in Switzerland for two years to sharpen her skills.
After winning the gold medal in women’s snowboard halfpipe at the 2018 Winter Olympics, Kim has solidified her spot as a commanding figure in a sport dominated by white athletes. Unlike many of her female counterparts, Kim is a first-generation Korean American. She serves as an inspiration for Asian American women to follow their dreams instead of adhering to stereotypes.
“Growing up, I’ve never seen Asian Americans in western entertainment or news, so it’s cool to see more Asian Americans in the limelight. It’s refreshing to see Asians get the recognition they deserve. Chloe Kim is great for young kids, especially those with immigrant parents because it’s important to have Asian American role models to look up to,” Shila Bui, a sophomore biology major, said.
Kim’s presence as a halfpipe snowboarder is also challenging the way the media pigeonholes Asian American women.
“I was surprised when I heard the news [about Kim winning], since I’ve never heard of a non-white male snowboarder before her,” Justine Jang, a 2018 Winter Olympics spectator, said. “I’m encouraged about the increasing roles that Asian women can play in the public eye. We’re not just doctors and pianists, we’re poets and athletes. I hope a lot of Asian American girls are going to be inspired by her to get serious about snowboarding, skateboarding, or whatever else they want to do.”
As for Kim’s inspirational influence over Asian American men, freshman business administration major Tyler Inafuku said, “I don’t think that Chloe Kim would have too much influence over Asian American men. Personally, I am just proud that she was able to achieve such a great accomplishment, and I think that most Asian Americans would be as well.”
Sophomore business administration major Darrus Lee, disagrees. “Chloe Kim is a pretty big deal in my eyes. The same goes for many Asian Americans that are doing well in their sports category whether it be past or present. Nathan Chen a figure skater has been a pretty big deal for Americans as well. These current Asian American athletes are a big confidence boost for us Asian Americans,” Lee said. “I believe Chloe will have an influence on Asian American guys as well. I think she will motivate some Asian Americans guys to try to follow her step and dominate a sport that is dominated by whites.”
Kim isn’t influential for just Asian Americans. She’s a very relatable figure on social media for young adults. By tweeting in the midst of the halfpipe finals about her being “hangry” and refusing to cry after winning so that she wouldn’t ruin her eyeliner, Chloe Kim proved that she’s as relatable as any other teenager. A large part of her popularity, however, still stems from her incredible work ethic and motivation to perform well in halfpipe despite the struggles of adolescence.
“Since Chloe’s our age and teenagers get lost with what we want to do with our future, it’s inspiring to see someone who’s relatable and just like me but able to achieve so much. If she can put in the hard work, then I can do it too,” says Bui.