Olympic gold medalist Chloe Kim has achieved a lot more than most 17-year-olds.
In 2016, at the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix, she became the first woman in a halfpipe competition to land back-to-back 1080s — a daring trick involving three 360-degree mid-air spins. This year, she completed the trick again at the Olympics in Pyeongchang, wining a gold medal for the U.S. and making her South Korean father’s dreams come true.
At the root of her success, she says, is determination.
“I just say, ‘Never give up,'” Kim tells CNBC Make It. “I feel like dreams are always a little tricky, you know. But if you just push through the struggles and the hard times, it’ll be so worth it in the end, because you will be able to get to your dreams.”
It’s a mindset she learned from her immigrant parents — her father Jong Jin Kim first arrived in the United states as a 26-year-old with nothing but “$800 and an English-Korean dictionary,” ESPN reports.
“Watching my family work so hard has been so inspirational and I think I really got their work ethic,” Kim tells CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla. “I always want to do the best I can. I’m always working hard.”
Kim learned how to snowboard as kid alongside her novice father at Mountain High resort in California. “At 5, Chloe started hitting small jumps and rails on the tiny board Jong had bought for $25 on eBay,” ESPN reports.
In the early days, her father used cut up yoga mats in her snow pants to cushion against falls, tried to melt candles onto her snowboard in lieu of real wax and had Kim join the resort’s snowboard team to save money on the cost of training, according to ESPN.
“Normally lessons are $100,” Jong tells the publication. “But they only charged $450 for the whole season if you were on the team.” Later, as Kim’s talent for snowboarding became more and more apparent, Jong even quit his job as an engineer to help her succeed.
“He sacrificed so much for me,” Kim tells CNBC’s Quintanilla. “I get in a lot of arguments with him, but at the end of the day, I’m so grateful for his support and just the way he believed in me when no one else did.”
Kim herself shares her father’s resolve. When she joined the snowboard team at Mammoth Mountain in California as a preteen, even former Olympians took notice.
“I was in the lift line at Mammoth, and this little girl in a blue helmet with a pink face mask asked to ride the chair with me,” Olympic snowboarder Kelly Clark recalls to ESPN. “Then I started seeing her at the halfpipe. The sheer amount of days I would see her out there, regardless of weather, spoke volumes.”
As a 14-year-old, Kim again proved her fortitude by becoming the youngest Winter X Games gold medalist, even after her chipping a tooth during a practice-round fall right before her event, according to ESPN. Instead of quitting, she completed all three of her runs and won.
In her Olympic debut this week, Kim also suffered a fall during her second run in the competition. Still, her scores were high enough to secure her the gold with one run left to go. Despite her guaranteed victory, Kim chose to use her third run as a chance to prove herself again. In that last run, she landed both 1080s.
“I just knew I wasn’t going to be happy, even if I went home with the gold, if I knew I could do better,” Kim tells NBC. “So that third run was really just to prove to myself that I deserved it and did everything I could. I’m so happy.”