Women’s History Month: 10 Questions with Kelly Clark, Professional Snowboarder & Olympic Gold Medalist
Added by Shannon Hovan on March 7, 2013.
Everyday this month, Double G Sports will be featuring interviews from prominent women in the sports industry as our way of celebrating Women’s History Month. This project is in its 2nd year. Today’s interview is with professional snowboarder and Olympic Gold Medalist, Kelly Clark.
1. Where did your appreciation for the sport of snowboarding and your drive to be a professional come from growing up?
I always enjoyed being outside and doing sports growing up. My parents were really supportive and encouraged me to be active and go after my dreams. I was never pushed to pursue snowboarding or any sport for that mater, my parents really left it up to me. There were no X-games or Olympics when I started snowboarding at the age of 7, i always say I started before it was cool. In high school is really when my Olympic dreams developed and it was then that I knew what I wanted to pursue.
2. With three Olympic appearances to your name, Sochi 2014 is on the horizon. Is there a “been there, done that attitude” for you, or do the Olympic Games still hold the same excitement and intrigue?
One of the wonderful things about snowboarding is that you can never arrive, it is kinda like life. The sport is always progressing and changing and in order to stay on top you have to progress and change with it. I don’t see the Olympics as a destination or something that will define me. I see it as an opportunity to push myself and a sport tot the edge of possibility and pursue my goals. That being said, I set some pretty high goals, and they are not just to make it to the games, I am looking to get back up on that podium.
3. Do you have any specific goals heading into Sochi next year?
It is all about my snowboarding. I try to make sure that is at a level where it needs to be. If I have learned one thing form all my Olympic experience, it is that “if you don’t have it by the time you get there, you are not going to get it there” I will be pushing the edge of my ability level and hopefully the rest of the field in progressing the sport and taking it future than it has been before.
4. At Winter X back in 2011, you landed the first-ever 1080 in women’s competition. Describe what that was like and where it ranks within your personal accomplishments within the sport.
I have had many “big” moments in my career, but landing that 1080 ranks in my top 3 favorites. I have such a heart to push and develop the sport and that was a manifestation of my personal goals, and the world caught a glimpse of it what is important to me. I spent that year raising my own bar, I had the contest won that night and did not need that trick to win. I did not do it because I had to, I did it because I wanted to. And after the rest of the girls tackled me and celebrated with me, it is easy to celebrate yourself, but it is special when your peers celebrate you.
Kelly Clark is an Olympic Gold Medalist in snowboarding.
5. You are consistently breaking down barriers within women’s snowboarding, what has kept you motivated throughout your career?
Snowboarding is impossible to master, it kinda reminds me of golf in that way. Except unlike golf this sport is still developing. We don’t know what is possible to do on a snowboard, and that is what motivates me. I want to breakdown the walls between impossible and possible. Take this sport as far as I can, and then see the next generation have my ceiling as their floor.
6. Talk a bit about your organization The Kelly Clark Foundation. How did it get its start and how has the work you’ve done thus far inspired you?
I started my foundation in 2010. As a competitive athlete you have to be about yourself most of the time, its your goals, your career etc… And I just thought that perhaps life would be better if it was not about me the all the time. I looked at my experiences growing up and I know that snow sports are not always accessible to everyone. I wanted to breakdown some of this financial barriers in our sport and see more kids having opportunity to pursue their dreams. Over the last 3 years have given out 48K in scholarships and grants to high level athletes across the the US. We fund tuition for snowboard schools and partner with other snow related non-profits and get at risk youth out on the mountain for the first time. We aim to make youth successful through snowboarding. And I can tell you first hand, life is better when it is not about you.
7. Has the growth of women’s participation in the sport of snowboarding since the start of your career surprised you at all?
It is grown a lot since I started snowboarding. I used to be the lone girl in a pack of boys. Now you go to the mountain and see whole crews of girls cruising around. I hope it continues to grow and more women get out and enjoy the sport.
8. Where do you think the allure of the sport and its culture comes from?
People say it was birthed out of rebellion, but perhaps it was viewed that way because most new things are. I think it is really born from people who have a value for creativity, individuality and authenticity. It is unique in a sense that is is a sport but also has a culture that comes along with it to associate yourself with. When you play catch with your dad growing up- you don’t call yourself a baseball player. But when you go snowboarding, you are called a snowboarder. Being a snowboarder, means being part of something bigger- and I think that is what we are all looking for.
9. Aside from the work with your foundation, have you given any thought as to how you might stay involved within the sport after you stop competing?
I honestly don’t know the answer to that. I have invested so much in this industry it would be hard to just switch gears and not be involved. But for the foreseeable future, I won’t be going anywhere.
10. U.S. Snowboarding’s website reads, “Kelly Clark” is a legend. How does it make you feel to be considered the most accomplished, groundbreaking athlete in your sport?
It is a honor to be considered as one of the leaders of this sport, and a little funny to be the legend at 29 years old, haha. I have found that in the later part of my career I do want to leave something more than just good contest results, I want to leave an industry that was better because I was a part of it. And between my progression and my foundation I hope to look back some day and see that I did that.