The father of U.S. snowboarding sensation Chloe Kim had a message for reporters after her spectacular Olympic gold medal win on Tuesday.
Pointing to himself, Kim Jong-jin said “American dream” before letting out a cheer, according to the Associated Press. A day earlier, the elder Kim had told the Today Show that his daughter was his American dream. It was a sentiment that had moved many fans to tears.
The younger Kim, who dominated women’s snowboard halfpipe event on Tuesday, told reporters after her victory that she “did it for my family.”
“My dad has definitely sacrificed a lot for me and I don’t know if I could do it, if I was in his shoes,” the 17-year-old said, according to Reuters. “Leaving your life behind and chasing this dream because your kid is passionate about this sport. I think today I did it for my family and I am so grateful to them.”
Kim’s dad, who emigrated from South Korea to California in 1982, quit his engineering job about a decade ago to support his daughter’s budding snowboarding career. Since then, he’s devoted himself to helping her succeed ― though he’s downplayed the sacrifices he’s made, calling it a choice “normal for all parents.”
When Kim was in middle school, her dad would drive her six hours to Mammoth Mountain every weekend so she could train there.
“What would happen is that he would carry me out of bed,” Kim recalled in a 2016 interview. “I would wake up in a new spot every time without even knowing what happened.”
When they got to the mountain, Kim’s dad would strap on his own board and ride by her side. “He never knew much about snowboarding, but he did everything he could,” Tommy Czeschin, a former U.S. Snowboarding coach, told Bleacher Report last month of the doting father.
On Tuesday, Kim’s parents and extended family, including her 75-year-old grandmother, were there to watch the teen clinch the gold medal at Phoenix Snow Park in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“To see Chloe compete in the Olympics, it’s going to be very exciting and happy,” her mom, Boran Kim, told the New York Times in the days leading up to the event. “I think it will be the best moment of my whole life.”
Kim’s dad won hearts with a handmade ― and laminated ― sign that he held up during his daughter’s runs. According to NBC, the poster was given to him by young snowboarders from California’s Mountain High resort, where his daughter used to ride and compete.
The elder Kim told NBC that, before Tuesday’s event, he texted his daughter, “Today is the day imugi turns to dragon,” a reference to a Korean legend.
“She was born in year of dragon,” he said. “To be a dragon in Korean tradition is to wait 1,000 years. Before [you are] a simple snake, like an anaconda. But they wait about 1,000 years, and then they turn to dragon. Go to the sky, and they make a big dragon with a gold pearl. She’s got a gold pearl in her mouth. I texted her this morning that this is the time to be dragon.”
“It turned out pretty well,” the younger Kim later told NBC. “If I’m a dragon, I’m down.”
Kim told reporters that her win in Pyeongchang was particularly special for her family, who have done so much “to help me accomplish this dream of mine.”
“So being able to do it here, in their home country, is amazing,” she said.