Kelly Clark seeking her third gold at Winter X | AspenTimes.com

Kelly Clark seeking her third gold at Winter X

Pat Graham
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Tony RochesterVermont's Kelly Clark soars in Thursday's women's snowboard superpipe qualifier at Aspen's Buttermilk ski area.
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ASPEN ” Kelly Clark was given one season. That’s it.

One season to prove to her parents she could make a career out of snowboarding and that skipping college made sound sense.

Soon after, Clark won gold at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Yep, she could definitely make a career out of this.

Clark is going for her sixth medal at the Winter X Games on Friday night, one of the favorites in the ultra competitive superpipe field. She’s already won gold twice in the event, the last time in 2006.

“I’m feeling confident,” she said. “I’ve had a great season so far.”

Clark chases the snow. That’s her secret to success.

She skis in her hometown of Mount Snow, Vt., until the snow turns mushy, then she heads to New Zealand for more halpipe action. She hasn’t taken a summer off in five years, nor has she wanted to.

“I’m having so much fun, I really don’t get burned out,” the 25-year-old said.

Clark had a great performance going at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, when she faltered doing a frontside 900. It could’ve been a gold medal performance. It might’ve been the best run ever thrown down by a woman in the halfpipe.

Instead, she took fourth behind fellow Americans Hannah Teter and Aspen’s Gretchen Bleiler.

That’s why she’s gradually building up for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

No sense in peaking too soon.

Known for the incredible height on her tricks, Clark has been rather reserved in the pipe this season ” by design. She’s working on her technical form, wanting to be fundamentally sound before going for big air.

“I’m definitely riding right now with the long term in mind,” said Clark, a graduate of Mount Snow Academy. “I know where my riding has to be next February. That’s why I’m working on the fundamental things in my snowboarding. It may not pay off today or tomorrow, but it will at the end of the year.”

Actually, it’s paying off now. In a big way.

Clark enters Winter X on a roll, winning the Burton European Open in Switzerland, not to mention a Dew Tour stop on her home mountain of Mount Snow.

It was there, in that resort town, where she honed her craft. Clark started out as a skier before switching over to snowboarding at age 7, not liking the competitiveness of skiing.

Now, she’s one of the most respected boarders on the scene.

And what about that competition?

“We push each other,” said Bleiler, who will be defending her Winter X superpipe crown Friday night in front of a hometown audience. “We’ve always been competitive rivals. She’s one of my good friends.”

Clark’s parents have been supportive of her career, attending as many events as they can. But they also have a pizza parlor to help run. Her gold medal from Salt Lake City is prominently displayed in the family’s restaurant.

If you go, leave the salt and pepper shakers where they are ” they’ve had a rash of them leaving the place ” and try Clark’s favorite kind of pizza.

“Bacon, pepperoni and green peppers. It’s great,” said Clark, who used to wait tables there.

As she tried to establish herself on the snowboarding scene, her parents helped out with spending money and advice.

“They always believed in me, but I always had to deliver,” Clark said. “Being given a year was incentive. I had one year out of high school to show them that I could make a career out of snowboarding. That’s just what I did.”


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