BEIJING, China — American halfpipe champion Chloe Kim opened about her mental health on Thursday after successfully defending her Olympic title, joining Shaun White as the only snowboarders to win back-to-back titles on the halfpipe.
Kim said she is able to handle fame and pressure much better now than after she won her first Olympic gold four years ago in Pyeongchang. After making history in 2018, Kim went home and realized that life as an Olympic champion wasn't as great as she thought it might be.
There were demands on her time; she could not go out without being noticed. There was a dark side — a trove of racist, anti-Asian messages and posts on social media. She threw her gold medal in the trash (but later fished it out), wondering if fame and fortune were really for her.
But she won't be tossing out her Beijing medal and hopes to inspire others by opening up about her own struggles.
"It's unfair to be expected to be perfect, and I'm not perfect in any way. But I think after my last Olympics, I put that pressure on myself to be perfect at all times and that would cause a lot of issues at home. I would be really sad and depressed all the time when I was home and that's not something...I was hurting the people I love the most by doing that," Kim explained.
"And so I think the biggest challenge for me now is just to be as open as possible because I hope that maybe one day a little girl can hear my story and be inspired to be, you know, to keep going, to never give up, to learn that it's OK to have a bad day, that you can move on and that you'll come out in a better place at the end of it all," the Olympic champion added.
The conversation surrounding Olympic athletes' mental health was thrust into the spotlight during the Tokyo Games, when gymnast Simone Biles and swimmer Caeleb Dressel shared their feelings about pressure and expectations. It's been a big topic again this week after two-time Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin's struggles in competition and the outpouring of support online afterward.