Olympic gold medalist Kelly Clark joins Burton US Open festivities
The snowboarding legend discusses her role in this year's competition
Usually, Kelly Clark spends her time at the Burton US Open Snowboard Championships working hard to win another title. This year is a bit different for her, however, as she’s hung up her jersey and isn’t competing this year.
“I guess retirement seems to be pretty busy for me as well, which isn’t a bad thing,” Clark said at the Manor Vail on Thursday. “Retirement is actually kind of a funny term that seems like a hard stop, but for me, ‘evolution’ would be the better word.”
Despite not being in the competitions, Clark is just as present as ever, acting as an announcer, attending fundraisers and even boarding with fans. On Friday, Clark took a few runs with fans, and activity that she’d been looking forward to.
“Getting to be here announcing and engaging with fans and being a part of what Burton’s got going on has been awesome,” said Clark.
Not half bad
While Clark admits that this year is notably different for her, having announced her retirement earlier this year, she’s enjoying her time.
“I’ve just been enjoying getting to ride the pipe here without the stress of competition,” she said. “Hopefully I’ll get the poach on the finals day when I’m done announcing the winner of the women’s pipe.”
As far as trading her board for the press box, Clark is excited to try something new.
“Getting to announce is actually really cool because I get to kind of shine a light on competitive women’s halfpipe riding in a way that no one else can,” Clark said. She explained that she has unique insights on the athletes; she’s aware of their histories, strengths and weaknesses. “Hopefully I can give the public some insight to help them appreciate the sport more.”
And better yet, Clark is very fond of the Burton US Open, so being a part of the team is a no-brainer.
“(The Burton US Open) really puts the rider first,” Clark said. “The venue, the halfpipe conditions, the judging format; everything is catered to benefit the riders and progress the sport.”
Despite dedicating herself to snowboarding for 20 years, Clark has no regrets about moving on.
“Honestly, I feel really content,” Clark to the Vail Daily’s Tricia Swenson. “Not every athlete gets to make that decision … I really found my own ceiling and it was time to make room for everybody else to stand on my shoulders.”
A look back
Being in the announcer’s chair has also given Clark the opportunity to reflect on her career and find similarities between hers and the careers of others, such as Chloe Kim, the youngest woman in the U.S. to win a snowboarding medal at just 17.
“I know what it’s like to be the 18-year-old gold medalist because I was there not too long ago,” Clark told Swenson. “I enjoy getting to see (Kim) doing so well. It’s easy being a rookie, but to watch her carry out this sustained success is really amazing.”
Being back at the Burton US Open has also inspired some nostalgia for Clark, as she’s also working with the Make a Wish foundation to make a young fan’s dream come true while she’s in town.
“I know what it was like coming to the US Open to watch my heroes snowboard,” said Clark to Swenson. “… It’s humbling and honoring to be on the other side of that now, and if I can use my platform to inspire people to dream, I’m going to jump on every opportunity I can to do that.
Aside from the ride that took place on Friday, this evening, Clark will screen the short film “Rise” at the halfpipe award ceremony. The film focuses on Clark’s career and her road to success in the sport of snowboarding. The event will take place at 6 p.m. at the Solaris Stage.
Arts & Entertainment Editor Nate Day can be reached at email@example.com or 970-748-2932.
Tricia Swenson contributed to this article via her interview with Clark, available on Facebook.