Four years ago when she was 17, Chloe Kim turned into an instant star at the Pyoengchang Olympics by becoming the youngest woman ever to win gold in snowboarding. Now Kim re-enters the spotlight as a 21-year-old woman at the Beijing Olympics. However, her adjustment to adult life, status and stardom was anything but easy.
In an interview with Time, Kim opened up about personal issues she experienced after becoming a star at Pyoengchang, as she dealt with severe anxiety and depression that culminated in her taking a sabbatical from snowboarding following the 2019 US Open. After winning a gold medal in the women's snowboard halfpipe, Kim was both inundated with celebrity in the United States and hailed as a national hero in her family's native South Korea.
But soon, fame and its impact on her personal life began to overwhelm her.
Kim told Time she "hated life" at that time and recalled how she began to panic after everyone turned to stare at her when she entered a favorite bakery near her Southern California home. At one point, Kim took her Olympic gold medal and threw it in the trash, briefly leaving it there before retrieving it.
After being bullied by teammates jealous of her success and breaking her ankle at the 2019 U.S. Open, Kim decided to take a break from snowboarding and pursue a normal life as a college student at Princeton as a means of escaping celebrity.
"I was so burnt out, I just couldn't do it anymore," Kim said. "I felt a little lost. I was in a pretty low, dark place."
For a time, Kim's star status remained an issue for her at Princeton -- specifically because of not wanting to take pictures with other students, as well as a change in university policy to remove addresses for students (Kim had requested her dorm and room number be removed as she dealt with stalker issues). But eventually, Kim was able to adjust to student life as her celebrity status quieted before returning to competitive snowboarding in 2020.
Ahead of the upcoming Beijing Olympics in February, Kim credited her time at Princeton with allowing her to be open to seeing a therapist, which has helped her process feelings about issues she had previously held in.
"Just being able to let those things out that you just tuck in your little secret part of your heart helps a lot," she says. "I feel much more at peace now."
As part of her return to Olympic competition and defense of her gold medal from Pyoengchang, Kim also revealed that she plans to debut three new tricks during the upcoming Winter Games.