American Chloe Kim, Aussie Scotty James win halfpipe at Park City World Championships |

American Chloe Kim, Aussie Scotty James win halfpipe at Park City World Championships

Eddie Pells
AP National Writer

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 Cai of China by 9.5 points on a frigid afternoon in Park City, Utah.

With Friday’s win, Kim is now the reigning Olympic, X Games, U.S. Open, Dew Tour and world champion.

Just as daunting to the other nine riders — and dozens more looking on from elsewhere — was the trick Kim tried but didn’t land after her victory was already 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.”

The year after the Olympics is generally a down year for these athletes — men’s gold and silver medalists Shaun White and Ayumu Hirano didn’t compete here. It’s a year geared toward healing, having fun and recharging the batteries.

Though 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 almost singularly obsessed with height and flips during the past decade.

James can go big, too, but he stands out with tricks such as the switch backside 1080 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 suspended upside down.

He 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 even 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.

Yuto Totsuka of Japan finished second, followed by Patrick Burgener of Switzerland. Iouri Podladtchikov, the 2014 Olympic champion, took a fall during warmups and did not compete. In the women’s competition, Kim and Cai were joined on the podium by young Californian Maddie Mastro (82.00) while teamboat Springs native and Breckenridge resident Arielle Gold finished in fifth place (79.00)

So, while James knows he’s got plenty of competition out there — including White and Hirano, and even 17-year-old Toby Miller, the protege of White’s and the top finishing male American who finished out of the medals by only 1.25 points on Friday — Kim’s main competition will be herself.

College may pull her away from the halfpipe briefly, but at 18, she’s not even close to her prime.

“This is rad, to think my first legitimate world championship came here. I love it in Park City,” Kim said. “I’m super-stoked to take it home.”

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