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In 2014, during the Sochi Olympics, I was watching women’s snowboarding with a friend who works in the sports world. “The best snowboarder isn’t even here,” he said, “because she’s too young.”
My friend was talking about Chloe Kim. I remember thinking, The best snowboarder in the world is 13 years old? And she’s also Korean American? Those are two things you don’t normally hear together.
Four years later, at the PyeongChang Olympics, everyone got to see that talent on display when Chloe won gold in the half-pipe competition. I felt two things simultaneously: incredibly happy for her—I made her a celebratory churro ice cream sandwich, which I think she called “bomb”—but also sad, because the whole world was about to descend on this now 17-year-old girl.
It’s hard for me to imagine the amount of pressure Chloe must have internalized. As fans, we saddled her with four years’ worth of built-up expectations. Asian-American fans further piled on their hopes that she would shatter Asian stereotypes on her way to the podium. And to top it all off, she was competing in her parents’ birth country, one that is notoriously judgmental of its diaspora.
And you know what? She crushed it. Blew us all out of the water. Now the best thing Chloe Kim can do is be Chloe Kim. That’s not being selfish—that’s letting people know they don’t have to be anything that anyone says they should be.
Chang is the founder of the Momofuku restaurant group