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Chloe Kim returns for first snowboarding events since 2022 Olympics

Chloe Kim

ZHANGJIAKOU, CHINA - FEBRUARY 10: Chloe Kim of Team United States celebrates winning the gold medal during the Women’s Snowboard Halfpipe Final on Day 6 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at Genting Snow Park on February 10, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

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Chloe Kim competes next week for the first time since repeating as Olympic gold medalist in February 2022. She compared flying and flipping above a halfpipe again to riding a bike.

“The worst anxiety actually comes from just traveling there and not knowing and hoping that you can still do this,” she said. “But the minute you drop in, you quickly remember.”

Starting next week, Kim plans to compete three consecutive weekends: at the Laax Open in Switzerland, the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado, and the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at her home resort of Mammoth Mountain, California. NBC Sports airs coverage of Mammoth in February.

Kim took her first halfpipe runs in earnest since the Olympics at an October training camp in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. Kim’s longtime coach, Rick Bower, said that Kim not only relearned all her tricks, but also in those sessions became the first woman to land a 1440 in a halfpipe. They caught it on film, but it has not been posted publicly.

At the Laax Open, Bower said that Kim wants to try a 1260, which no woman has landed in competition. Kim landed it in training as far back as 2018 and tried it unsuccessfully at the 2022 Olympics. If things go well at Laax, Kim could attempt a 1440 at a future event, Bower said.

“She just wants to keep adding to her run, and she’s made huge steps, leaps and bounds,” Bower said Friday. “She’s looking very good, very focused, very in tune with her riding and very much like she hasn’t missed a beat, which is amazing having taken almost two years at this point since her last event.”

She is undefeated since returning from her last 22-month break in 2021, when Laax was also her comeback contest.

Kim, 23, knew before the 2022 Olympics that she wanted to take a year break after the Games.

“The Olympics are exhausting,” she said. “It’s exhausting because that’s the moment where you want your best riding, and the amount of just insurmountable pressure you put on yourself in that space is exhausting.”

She still rode her board and worked out during the time off.

“I wasn’t just, like, drinking piña coladas on the beach and going on vacation,” she said. “I was still in the gym every single day. I was still working and training. So the time off was really just time off of snow.”

She initially planned to be in Saas-Fee for a month. Kim wrapped up early because she accomplished everything she set out to do and “took a pretty good slam” in training, but left without serious injury.

When Kim returned from her prior break in 2020, she also regained all of her tricks in a single camp in Saas-Fee.

“So much time in my life training for this, for it to go away after a couple of years, that’d be a bummer,” Kim said Tuesday.

Asked if there’s any goal left in snowboarding that she hasn’t yet accomplished, Kim said she felt satisfied with her career so far.

“I’m pretty content, but the competitor in me still wants more, so definitely wasn’t just dilly-dallying in Saas-Fee,” she said. “I was grinding and messing around with new tricks, which is always fun for me. That’s where I get my adrenaline from.”

In Kim’s time away, South Korean Gaon Choi won last year’s X Games at age 14, breaking Kim’s record as the youngest champion in the event. Kim, who first met Choi in New Zealand years ago, posted that she felt like “a proud mom.”

“It’s always really cool to see another Korean girl on the scene,” said Kim, whose parents came to the U.S. from South Korea. “She’s killing it. … Just makes me proud. I’m excited to see what she does, but I know that the future of snowboarding is in great hands.”

The foreseeable future will still include Kim.

“Every time you take some time off or even after some time has passed, you kind of go into it with a different expectation, different purpose,” she said. “So I think right now, it’s all about finding that and just fine-tuning my craft and having some fun.”