Olympic Summit notes: Veteran halfpipe medalist Kelly Clark still has some tricks left

Salt Lake Tribune  

By Christopher Kamrani - September 26, 2017

 Kelly Clark, of the United States, competes in a World Cup halfpipe snowboard event Sunday, March 1, 2015, in Park City, Utah. Clark came in first place. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Kelly Clark, of the United States, competes in a World Cup halfpipe snowboard event Sunday, March 1, 2015, in Park City, Utah. Clark came in first place. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Park City • Kelly Clark slammed into the giant inflatable airbag at the base of a halfpipe over and over this summer, praying she could turn the clock back nearly two decades. The 34-year-old snowboarding pioneer is no stranger to keeping pace — and often coming out on top — against rising talents in the sport.

The four-time Olympian wanted to try something familiar. So she went back into her old bag of tricks to relearn the “McTwist,” typically known as an inverted style of a backside 540 spin. The trick, Clark, explained helped solidify her name on the biggest stage when she won gold in women’s snowboard halfpipe at the 2002 Olympics at Park City Mountain Resort.

“I hadn’t done it in 15 years,” the Vermont native said.

Clark consulted the likes of Shaun White, Danny Davis and Toby Miller, asking for their help to become reacclimatized to the trick.

“I was able to land it first try,” she said.

That landing summarizes Clark. A generational talent refusing to retire, prompted to stay locked into her bindings for as long as possible, striving for her fourth Olympic medal. Clark’s decorated career also features 11 career World Cup victories and is a nine-time X Games gold medalist.

“She stands out when she snowboards,” said 16-year-old snowboarding phenom Chloe Kim. “She’s so talented, so amazing. Her riding is so powerful, so strong.”

Clark has been forced to adapt with the times. She might’ve helped the relationship between snowboarding and the Olympics get off the ground 16 years ago, but in order to keep up, she’s diversifying her tricks.

“[Snowboarding is] always changing. It’s elusive,” Clark said. “I always compare it to golf. You hit one shot that makes it all worth it every once in a while. For me, I honestly don’t think I’ve hit my potential, so I’m going to be pushing myself and finding out what I’m capable of.”

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2018 Winter Olympics U.S. Snowboard Team Qualifying Events Schedule

 June 23, 2017 By  TransWorld SNOWboarding

June 23, 2017 By TransWorld SNOWboarding

As the dates draw closer to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, Team USA is gearing up for the remaining qualifying events. The top riders across the differing snowboarding disciplines will compete for spots on the USSA sanctioned team at four events in resorts around Colorado and California until the official cutoff date of January 21, 2018.

Officially, the qualifying season started this past February when Shaun White, Kelly Clark, Red Gerard, and Jamie Anderson topped the podiums in their respective disciplines of pipe and slopestyle at the Mammoth Grand Prix. As the first official 2018 Winter Olympic Qualifying event spanning the January 2017-January 2018 qualifying allotment, there are four events left for riders to make their mark.

 Jamie Anderson on her way to winning gold at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. PHOTO: Wellhausen

Jamie Anderson on her way to winning gold at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. PHOTO:

Athletes including Jamie Anderson, Shaun White, Kyle Mack, Judd Henkes, and Hailey Langland, will compete for up to 26 spots across the Slopestlye and Big Air, Halfpipe, Snowboardcross, and Giant Slalom events this upcoming season. With more details and Olympic predictions as we draw closer to the start of the Winter Games in February, here are the proposed dates and locations for the upcoming qualifying events. Expect to see all the big names coming out to ride trying represent their country come time in South Korea.

Upcoming Schedule:

December 7 -10, 2017 – Copper Mountain, CO – Halfpipe and Big Air

December 15-16, 2017 – Breckenridge, CO – Halfpipe and Slopestyle

January 10-13, 2018 – Snowmass, CO – Halfpipe and Slopestyle

January 17-20, 2018 – Mammoth Mountain, CA – Halfpipe and Slopestyle

Past Qualifying Event:
February 3-5, 2017 – Mammoth Mountain Grand Prix – Halfpipe and Slopestyle


Podcast 001: Embracing the Process with Snowboarding Champion Kelly Clark

Check out the podcast here! 

The Stoked Lifestyle with Steve Larosiliere

EP 001 Kelly Clark

On today’s episode, Steve Larosiliere interviews Kelly Clark. Kelly is a multi-awarded snowboarder who has competed in the Olympics. She just returned from a serious surgery, and is restarting her snowboarding season. Listen to her story and be inspired!

“A lot of people would say, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ But what I really found was ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you humble.’” -Kelly Clark



Kelly Clark hopes to add one more Olympic bib to historic wall


Kelly Clark, a pro snowboarder for the last 17 years with three Olympic medals, likes to save her halfpipe competition bibs. All of them.

More than 200 bibs are stuffed into boxes upon boxes in the garage of her Folsom, Calif., home.

“I like to think there’s a fine line between collecting and hoarding,” she said, smiling.

Four of Clark’s favorite bibs are not in boxes. They are framed, hanging on a TV room wall next to three wooden snowboards (one signed in pencil by Jake Burtonand a Snurfer.

It’s clear upon view. They are Clark’s bibs from her four Olympics, spelled out on the front — “Salt Lake City 2002,” “Torino 2006,” “Vancouver 2010” and “Sochi 2014.”

One day in the last year, some friends visited Clark’s home. They scanned the bib wall and noticed an empty space.

“Hey, you’ve got one more open spot for one more bib,” Clark recalled one of them saying.

“I didn’t plan it that way,” Clark continued, “but when I looked, I actually have one more spot that one more Olympic bib could find a home.”

There’s little doubt Clark will pack a “PyeongChang 2018” bib and fly it home to Folsom next year. The 33-year-old is on track to become the first U.S. snowboarder to compete in five Olympics.

Which is incredible, given Clark relearned how to walk last spring.

She tore her hamstring and hip labrum on her left side, underrotating a 1080 in practice at Winter X Games Oslo in February 2016. Her first serious injury.

Clark later found it to be the biggest obstacle of her career. It overtook her fourth-place finish at the 2006 Winter Olympics, the only time she has missed the podium at a Winter Games.

After surgery, Clark’s feet were bound together for a month. She watched “Friends” episodes in bed.

Clark was off snow for seven months. She got Iris, a golden retriever puppy. Iris faithfully stayed at Clark’s side for endless hours of physical therapy. Clark taught her how to swim.

In October, Clark got back on a chair lift in New Zealand. She shared the ride with Shaun White and his coach, 2002 Olympic bronze medalist J.J. Thomas.

The men had no idea that Clark was having “an inner crisis,” doubting whether her hip would hold up when she got off the lift. She let White and Thomas disembark first.

“Intimidating,” she said. “Got my feet back underneath me.”

Then came Feb. 5, 2017, one of the best days of Clark’s life. In her first contest back, she won the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

Fearing poor weather might close the roads that evening, Clark quickly hopped in a car after the awards. She drove 100 miles north to Topaz, a community on the California-Nevada border.

Wearing a New England Patriots jersey, the Vermont native walked into a casino steakhouse bar, sat and watched the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.

Two weeks after that, Clark won the Olympic halfpipe test event in PyeongChang.

“I really just had some moments where I stepped back, and I just couldn’t believe that I still get to do this,” Clark said of last season. “I couldn’t believe that I was, you know, 33 years old, winning an Olympic test event. Like, I wouldn’t have dreamt that I’d be able to do that in my wildest dreams. It was more emotional than I had anticipated, the moment for me. It was kind of a benchmark, as well, where, post-hip surgery, I was back.”

Clark has memories associated with every Olympic halfpipe event. When snowboarding debuted at Nagano 1998, Clark recorded the TV coverage on VHS so she could watch it after school days.

In 2002, Clark rallied to make her first Olympic team and became the youngest Olympic snowboarding champion at age 18. A record she still holds.

After that 2006 failure, Clark broke the record as the oldest Olympic halfpipe medalist by taking bronze in 2010. In 2014, she tearfully broke it again. Clark landed the last run of the entire competition for bronze after falling in all five practice runs and on her first run of the final on a slushy pipe.

“My Sochi medal is, by far, my favorite Olympic experience,” Clark said. “You know, that day wasn’t my best snowboarding. But what I personally overcame that day to stand up on the Olympic podium, 12 years after I first stood up there, that was probably the greatest victory of my career.”

Clark was miffed that night when, before she could take her boots off, people started asking her about retirement.

“I kept getting this question, are you finally done?” said Clark, who had won every X Games title in the Sochi Olympic cycle. “That’s a weird way to phrase it. I got asked it enough that I had to really kind of evaluate that.”

Clark decided that she was competing not for victories but for love of the sport. As long as she’s still learning, she’ll keep entering contests.

Despite her success this past winter, Clark had not regained all of her strength. She’s eager to see what’s possible next season with a full prep period.

Who’s to say Clark can’t reset the age record a third time in PyeongChang at 34 years old?

The Vermont native jokes that she’s been snowboarding since before it was considered cool. Twice in 2016, she shared a podium with two girls whose ages didn’t add up to her own.

At home, Clark has boxes of bibs and wooden snowboards older than her new batch of rivals. She doesn’t mind being reminded of that.

“When people come over and they look at them,” Clark said, “it kind of brings back the memories for me, too.”



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