Chloe Kim adds world championship to growing list of titles

That already sizable gap between Chloe Kim and the rest of the world is growing even bigger.

The 18-year-old Kim added a world championship to her overflowing collection of halfpipe titles, outdistancing second-place finisher Xuetong Cam of China by 9.5 points on a frigid afternoon in Park City, Utah. With Friday's win, Kim is the reigning Olympic, X Games, U.S. Open and world champion.

Just as daunting to the other nine riders -- and dozens of onlookers -- was the trick Kim tried but didn't land after her victory was wrapped up. It was a frontside, double-cork 1080.

Four months ago in a training session in Switzerland, Kim became one of the rare women to land a double-flipping jump and the first to land it with a frontside takeoff. She tried to bring it out for the world to see Friday but couldn't stay upright. A snowy week had limited her time in the halfpipe leading into the contest. 

"I wish I'd put it down, but at the next contest, hopefully, I'll be able to do it,'' she said. "It's just so hard when you don't get that much practice. But I'm stoked I tried it, and I'm glad I'm walking away in one piece.''

Remarkable as the trick itself was Kim's timing. The year after the Olympics is generally a down year for these athletes -- a year geared toward healing, having fun and recharging the batteries. Men's gold and silver medalists Shaun White and Ayumu Hirano didn't compete in Park City.

Although Kim recently decided to enroll at Princeton next fall, she's showing no signs of taking a break quite yet. 

The same might be said of Scotty James, the Aussie who finished third in last year's Olympics but first in the hearts of many purists, who appreciate his devotion to the technical aspects of a sport that has become obsessed with height and flips in the past decade.

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

James can go big, too, but he stands out with tricks such as the switch backside 1080 that he used to open his final run. It's a jump performed traveling backward, then flipping backward -- akin to a right-handed baseball player swinging left-handed while upside down.

James landed that one perfectly, then put together a series of double-corks and landed all of them without a hitch. In all, it wasn't as difficult as his bronze-medal run last year, but this time, it was more than enough. When his winning score of 97.5 came up, James thrust his trademark red boxing gloves into the air and celebrated his third straight title at the world championships. He also won in 2015 and 2017.

"I was pinching myself when I won my second world title, and I'm triple-pinching myself now," he said. 

Yuto Totsuka of Japan finished second, followed by Patrick Burgener of Switzerland. Iouri Podladtchikov, the 2014 Olympic champion, took a fall during warm-ups and did not compete.

"Whoever's going to come and show up, whether it's Shaun or Ayumu or anyone else, I work day in and day out to make sure I can stand on the podium, and I'll continue to do that," James said. "Whoever's out there, let's go."

While James knows he has plenty of competition right now -- including White and Hirano and even 17-year-old Toby Miller, the protege of White's who finished out of the medals by 1.25 points Friday -- Kim's main competition will be herself.

"I wouldn't say winning is always the big goal," Kim said. "I always want to push myself, do different runs, lay different tricks. As long as it's about pushing myself and progressing the sport, it's good."

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