MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN, Calif. (Reuters) - Seventeen-year-old American snowboarding prodigy Chloe Kim is enjoying the media frenzy surrounding her first Olympics, where her status as favorite to win gold in halfpipe has made her among the most talked about athletes heading into the Games.
“It’s really fun,” she told Reuters after finishing second in the U.S. Grand Prix in Mammoth Mountain.
“I’ve usually been pretty good with it. I’ve just never been in this situation before.”
Flanked by experienced Shaun White and Kelly Clark at a news conference, the first generation Korean American said being able to lean on her team mates has helped her navigate the good and bad that comes with intense media attention.
“It’s really nice to know I have all of these people that have been through it all and are willing to help,” she said.
”I was pretty bummed out the other day and I called Kelly and she talked me through it.
“Even if it is not snowboard related, let’s say something bad about you came out and you don’t know how to handle it, Kelly was the first person I thought of and she was able to help me through,” Kim said.
Clark, who punched her ticket to her fifth Olympics by winning the U.S. Grand Prix on Saturday, said first-time Olympians like Kim should enjoy the experience while trying to keep it in perspective.
“I love the Olympics and have given my life to pursuing this dream but at the same time it’s easy to get caught up in a lot of things aside from the snowboarding side of it,” she said.
“You shouldn’t treat the Olympics as a destination nor should they be something that defines you. They should be in addition to a wonderful snowboarding career.”
The 31-year-old White, who has been in the media spotlight his entire adult life, is enjoying being a mentor to Kim and the other young American snowboarders heading to Pyeongchang next month.
“If I can help in any way or be that phone call or whatever, I‘m there,” he said.
“It’s fun for me too because we’re a tight group and we’re all going together. It’s great.”
Reporting by Rory Carroll, editing by Ed Osmond