U.S. snowboarder Clark finds her victory elsewhere
Posted: Monday February 13, 2006 3:05PM; Updated: Tuesday February 14, 2006 3:51AM
Kelly Clark narrowly missed winning bronze and giving the U.S. a halfpipe sweep.
TURIN, Italy -- After her first run in the women's halfpipe finals, U.S. snowboarder Kelly Clark met with her technical coach, Ricky Bower, to strategize what she needed to do to improve her third-place standing. Bower suggested she throw in a 720 spin for her final trick. Says Bower, "If she could put in a 720, she'd probably get second."
But Clark wasn't interested in finishing second. "Whether I was third or last, I was going for it," she says. As Christian rock band David Crowder's Oh Praise Him blared through the speakers, Clark soared higher than any of the top 12 riders with a 12-foot frontside air and followed up with two back-to-back 540s.
For her final trick at the end of the chute, she went for a 900 but caught an edge in the landing and fell. Bumped to fourth, Clark was one point shy from completing a U.S. women's sweep. Hannah Teter and Gretchen Bleiler finished first and second, and Norway's Kjersti Buaas took third.
"That was the best run I've ever had," Clark says. "[The 900 spin] was the best one I've ever done if I had landed it. I'm really pleased with how I rode."
After Clark, 22, won the Olympics at the Salt Lake Games she struggled with the expectations to consistently perform at the highest level. When reporters asked her at the X Games three years ago what went wrong with her second-place run, she began to sour on the sport. A knee injury the following season kept her off the snow for eight months. During that time, Clark attended a church near her Mammoth Lakes, Calif., condo.
Though she was unable to capitalize on another Olympic medal, Clark takes comfort in her new identity as a Christian. While close friends Teter and Bleiler were stepping up to the medal podium at the bottom of the Bardonecchia halfpipe, Clark stood nearby wiping away tears.
"I love Jesus," says Clark, who has the name written on her board. "[Being a Christian] is more joyful than all this snowboarding stuff."