At age 18, Clark was the youngest member of the U.S. snowboarding team at the Salt Lake Games, and, despite suffering a bruised tailbone and a broken wrist during a practice run three days before the final, she finished atop the podium - the first U.S. gold medal of the 2002 Games. In the aftermath of Salt Lake, Clark struggled somewhat under the
pressure of being Olympic champion and limited her competitive schedule in an effort to rediscover the fun in the sport. After taking some time off from competition in part due to knee surgery that sidelined her for eight months, Clark came back strong for the 2004-05 season, winning her first World Cup title in four years.
On the line
On her final run in Torino, Clark had two options: go easy and grab a silver or bronze medal, or put it all on the line and try to win a second consecutive Olympic gold. Trailing leader and teammate Hannah Teter by 3.5 points, Clark launched into her run. The first five tricks were inspired, showcasing Clark's trademark progressive amplitude. But on her final jump at the bottom of the halfpipe, she caught an edge and was unable to land a rarely seen frontside 900. That left her in fourth place by less than a point (Americans Teter and Gretchen Bleiler won gold and silver, respectively). Clark declined to take off her goggles for the initial post-event interview, though her tinted lenses didn't hide the tears. "When you do well at the Olympics, it's crazy," Clark says of her gold medal experience after Salt Lake. "It is just one thing after another after another after another." By comparison, Torino was a completely different experience. "Being around the Olympic atmosphere after not achieving what you set out to achieve, you kind of just want to go home at that point."
Back to basics
Despite the fall in Torino, Clark's run was considered by many to be the finest ever by a woman, narrowing the gap between the sexes. It was also a sign of things to come from Clark. After deciding to go "back to the basics" of riding, much as Tiger Woods famously reconstructed his stroke, Clark had her best season in 2008-09, winning the overall Ticket To Ride (TTR) World Tour title in the process. Having already gotten off to a quick start by taking first at the 2009 New Zealand Open, Clark designated herself as the early frontrunner for Olympic gold in 2010.
R.I. to VT to CA
Clark lived in Newport, RI, for seven years before moving with her family to West Dover, VT. There, she began snowboarding at age eight after her mother bought her first board. "I really bugged her for it," says Clark. Clark recalls that she was always "doing 180s off of stuff," like ramps built in the woods. As a fourth grader at Dover Elementary, she started a snowboarding club with her classmates. School administrators there permitted half day on Wednesdays for extracurricular activity, and Clark decided to start the club with 10 of her friends at nearby Mount Snow. After graduating from Brattleboro Union High School in June 2001, Clark left Vermont for Mammoth Lakes, Calif., where she still resides.
Kitchen is open
Clark's parents, Terry and Cathy, still reside in West Dover, where they own a restaurant called TC's, which, in addition to serving Italian and American cuisine, also has trophy cases containing much of the memorabilia from Clark's career. Growing up, Clark's family lived above the restaurant, where they still reside. "Sometimes you could hear the bar area," Clark recalls of her time living atop TC's, "but my parents, they could work and we could stay home, and then it's really great because then you can eat whenever you want."
As the pilot for the USA-1 bobsled, I broke a 62-year gold medal drought when my sled, the 'Night Train" won the Olympic title at the 2010 Vancouver Games. A degenerative eye condition nearly caused me to quit my sport in 2008, but corrective surgery restored my vision to 20-20.