Grilled: Kelly Clark here, now, and on the Road to Sochi

Comments by Kelli Lynn Hargrove/

When it comes to women’s snowboarding, the name Kelly Clark represents progression, passion, and perseverance. Cliche as that may sound, one look back at Clark’s career— she topped 16 podiums straight during the 2012 season before celebrating her 60th career win in 2013— and it is clear that her talent is nothing short of exceptional.

Amplitude and consistency have kept Clark atop the podium, but what makes Kelly truly stand out is her unwavering focus; she is consistently pushing herself to the next level, never wavering in her determination or her confidence. Positivity dominates her frame of mind, whether she is talking about her fellow riders or her own progress, and this attitude proves vital to her success. Just this season, Clark has already bagged a win at the NZ Winter Games, and is currently duking it out for Burton High Fives glory, a contest which she and her team managed to sweep last time around.

With Sochi 2014 just over the horizon, Kelly gives us a bit of insight into her season thus far, and what it means to compete during an Olympic year.

Kelly Clark, constantly reaching new heights | P: Blotto/Burton

Kelly Clark, constantly reaching new heights | P: Blotto/ Burton

Congrats on your win at the NZ Winter Games! That’s got to be a pretty sweet way to kick off the season! The 2013 Burton High Fives is coming up quickly— are you gunning for another sweep?
I had an amazing team last year, so that is all I can hope for! I am sure it will be full of fun times on and off the hill.

Which event, besides snowboarding, is your favorite?
The events switch up each year, I liked the jet boating last year…maybe that will be in the mix again.

Which event gets the most ridiculous?
It is hard to say…it is either the shooting, jet boat riding, mini rally, sheep herding or the segway.

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Kelly Clark | P: Gabe L’Heureux/ Burton

Your team won last year’s team competition— which event was your best?
I got to be a team captain last year, and picked good snowboarders that I knew could do the activities well too. So Scotty Lago held it down in the shooting, and Kaitlyn Farrington won the mini rally as well…we all pulled our own weight!

Does the team aspect of High Fives affect the overall attitude of the competition? Is there any change in how competitive the athletes are?
It is pretty amazing how we get competitive with things that we have never done before. We really take things seriously, each convinced that we will complete the task. It actually makes it really fun, you cheer for your friends off the hill and then on the hill you watch for your teammates’ runs in addition to your own.

Given that this is an Olympic year, have you seen a shift in the industry’s mentality regarding events?
You can definitely tell the Olympics are coming— the whole atmosphere has changed. I see a lot of people cramming like you do for a test. I am glad I started getting ready for this year about 3 1/2 years ago. I have been unprepared in the past, and don’t want to do it that way again.

What about you personally? Is your mind-set any different given the circumstances of this season?
No, I don’t really look to what others are doing to make my plan. I set goals and go after them. I try to live intentionally, not reactionary. I am right on track, and happy with where my snowboarding is at. I set a very high personal level and this year I will be adding a few new tricks and raising my own bar.

Since the last games in 2010, what changes have you seen in the level of women’s riding?
It has been progressing as it always does in-between Olympics. I have enjoyed being a part of that progression. Specifically, we are seeing incredible double corks and 10s.

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Comfort Zone | P: Blotto/ Burton

How has your riding progressed in the past four years?
During the last Olympics I decided I did not want to progress my riding because it was an Olympic year or X Games. I wanted to do things based off what was going on in me, not around me. So I went out and chased down the tricks I wanted to do…like when I first did my 10 it was in a victory lap at the X Games when I already had the event won. I went on to do it 5 times that year in events…never once did I need it to win. It is a different approach, and I have found it to be much more enjoyable.

As far as training goes, are you doing anything different for Sochi? Any crazy techniques we should know about?
If I have learned one thing from my Olympic experience it is ” if you don’t have it by the time you get there, your not going to get it” so it has been all about preparation…and my prep started 3 1/2 years ago. I find that it is a much more enjoyable experience that way.

After winning a bronze medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics, what are your goals heading into Sochi?
I was so happy with my result in Vancouver. It was a big deal for me to overcome that first run fall and land my second run and get 3rd. I almost like my bronze better than my gold medal as it cost me more. I always value things based on what they cost me. Looking ahead it is no secret that I have an all or nothing approach…I will go for the win because I always do. I also don’t treat the Olympics as a destination or look for them to define me. It is easier to go for it when it is an opportunity rather than a threat.

60th win is the charm | P: Gabe L'Heureux/ Burton

60th win is the charm | P: Gabe L’Heureux/ Burton

Word on the street is that Torah Bright is in all three Olympic snowboarding events—boardercross, halfpipe, and slopestyle— what are your thoughts on taking on a competition hat-trick?
It would be pretty epic! If anyone can do it, it is Torah. Aussie…Aussie…Aussie….

Olympic years are really the only time that snowboarders are separated by nationality— do you feel like the fact that you are riding as a US athlete specifically has any effect on your mindset or your approach to an event?
No, I stick to my own plan, it does not change my approach. That being said, it is really fun being part of a team at the games- I definitely have some USA pride!

In the simplest sense, what is motivating you this season?
Same thing that motivates me every season… That we don’t know the limit of what is possible. I enjoy walking that line and hope to continue to lead the way in our sport and shape it for those who will come after me.