Keeping up with the first woman to win a gold medal in snowboarding

By Kaki Flynn // TeamUSA.org

Read recent news about Kelly on the site of her
family's restaurant, TCRestaurant.com
In a one-minute run in the halfpipe in Park City on Sunday, Kelly Clark went from Big Air to the Big Time. Even though she is the reigning U.S. halfpipe champion, there is nothing quite like the publicity that goes along with winning an Olympic gold medal, especially the first gold medal for the U.S. these Games. Take a glimpse at Kelly's schedule, which has more twists and turns than a Stalefish McTwist:

7 a.m. // Competition Day. Wake up, get gear ready for competition. Try to ignore severely bruised tailbone injury from Saturday. Fell 17 feet "onto my buttocks," says Kelly, while practicing the McTwist.

10 a.m. // Halfpipe qualifying runs. All three U.S. riders qualify for finals.

1 p.m. // Kelly takes first run of finals. Sits in second place behind France's Doriane Vidal, who scored 43 points to Clark's 40.8. "I need to be smoother and mix my tricks more," said Clark before her second run.

1:30 p.m. // Kelly Clark Boost Factor: While the loud speakers pump out Guns-n-Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle," Kelly puts on her minidisk headphones and turns on Blink 182's "This is Growing Up" just before she pushes off to start her run. Crowd of 16,500 fans, one rock band, her Mom, Dad, brother Tim, a handful of hometown friends, and four guys with "USA!" painted across their bare chests are driven into a frenzy with her tricks.


The Numbers
The 7 Tricks:
Length of Run: 1 minute

Number of Tricks Performed: 7

Amplitude (speed + altitude): 9.2 out of 10

Score for Maneuvers: 10 out of 10

Total Score: 47.9 out of 50
Frontside Air
Big Indy
Frontside 540
McTwist w/Indy Grab
Frontside 720

2:00 p.m.
// The Mixed Zone: Kelly heads into the "Mixed Zone," an area right below the pipe that lets the media get an immediate reaction from Kelly after her run. Kelly travels along a 50-foot make-shift walkway packed with hundreds of television, radio and print media from all over the world that want to get quotes from this easy-going and well-spoken champion.

2:30 p.m. // The Flower Ceremony: Kelly, along with silver medalist Vidal and bronze medallist Fabienne Reuteler (Switzerland), are awarded flowers on a podium set up near the base of the pipe. Clark pulls up the second and third place finishers to the top of the podium with her. "I think that is what drew me to snowboarding," says Kelly, commenting on the camaraderie of the competitors. "Everyone is rooting for each other."

2:43 p.m. // Gets two minutes to hug Mom, Dad, brother and family friends before being hustled to the press conference. Brother Tim and parents are wearing hats with "Kelly Clark 2002 Olympic Team" printed on front.

2:45 p.m. // Presto-Chango: Ducks into athlete area behind stadium, changes into official U.S. Olympic Team gear.

2:55 p.m. // Press Conference: Kelly answers questions about everything from how she felt about winning the gold ("psyched") to what her parents do for a living (own TC's Family Restaurant in West Dover, Vt.), to where she wants to go to college ("undecided").

3:55 p.m. // Main Street in Park City: Kelly travels around downtown. More interviews, most of them live on the packed streets of downtown Park City. "I'm glad to be a part of something so positive when the country is at war, and needs something positive to celebrate about," says Kelly about the crowd that gathers in packs around her to chant "USA! USA!"

5 - 7 p.m. // Makes the 33.5 mile, 1-hour commute to downtown Salt Lake City Olympic Medals Plaza. Medal ceremony crowd of 20,000 cheers for the young superstar. "Star Spangled Banner" (80-seconds long) played for Kelly, who enjoys every second.

9 p.m. // Travels 200 yards to the Salt Palace, home of the Main Media Center, for another press conference.

10:15 p.m. // Heavy Medal: Travels two blocks to the USA House, home of the U.S. Delegation, where she is greeted with cheers. Member of the delegation asks her how heavy her medal is. "Why don't you see for yourself?" asks Kelly, who lets staff members hold her medal. Sips one glass of cranberry juice.

10:45 p.m.//Stops by the US Ski and Snowboard Association House in Park City, an exclusive enclave for the athletes and coaches. First chance at food since 7 a.m. Grabs a cheeseburger.

1 - 2:30 a.m. // Oakley House: Sleeps 1.5 hours at her sponsor's house, the first sleep she has had since waking up at 7 a.m. the day before.

3 a.m. // CBS Interview: Goes to the Canyon Lands Resort in Park City for live interview.

4 a.m. // Katie & Matt: Goes on the Today Show set also in the Canyon Lands Resort. Crowd is impressed with "little snowboarder girl." Explains "hucking" to Katie. One big surprise: Bob Costas arranged the night before for a live feed of her family and friends back in Vermont. Two great little surprises: Her golden retrievers Sam and Peanut made an appearance on the feed. Huge breakfast of scrambled eggs, muffins and pastries served in the "Green Room," the holding area for guests, after her appearance.

Matt Lauer drops in to thank Kelly for getting up so early to be on the show. Kelly stops for photos with fans on her way out the back door to leave for her next interview.

6:30 a.m. // Does a live remote CNN International interview.

8:30 - 11:30 a.m. // Returns to Canyon Lands and teaches Katie Couric how to snowboard. Number of times Katie falls: "I don't remember," says Kelly. "She picked it up pretty easily. She was good, too."

Noon // Cool School: Interview with NBC-Boston station. Talks about ski-academy that she attended as a kid. Time spent in the classroom: 50 percent. Time spent on the slopes: 50 percent.

12:50 p.m. // Is the trivia question on local radio station. Question: "How old is Kelly Clark?" Listeners first three guesses: 10, 39, and 45. (She's 18.) Fourth listener guesses "18", wins two tickets to medal ceremonies.

1:00 p.m. // Men's Halfpipe: Closest thing to down time Kelly has had since 7 a.m. the day before. Hangs out with 1999 World Cup champion, Tricia Byrnes, who was happy to see her friend win. "She can throw it down, and she was hungry for it," Byrnes commented. The pair talks about Kelly teaching Couric how to snowboard ("Oh, cool!" exclaims Byrnes), and the two discuss the men's halfpipe competition. "Did you see how high he got?" says Kelly during one of U.S. Snowboarder Ross Powers' runs, which is quite a comment coming from the master of "amplitude."

1:15 p.m. // Down time over, as crowd spots Kelly, who is slightly incognito wearing a hat and pair of Orange Oakley goggles. Fans scream out, "We love you, Kelly," and beg her for autographs and photos. Kelly, Tricia and friend get journalists to help passing autographs back to the crowd, and Kelly and Tricia get news photographers to take personal pictures of them with friends and fans. Kelly eventually escapes, and watches the rest of the U.S. men's three-medal sweep of the event with silver-medalist Vidal.

2:00 p.m. // Medal Sighting: Where's the medal? In the right pocket of her snowboard pants, where else? Kelly pulls it out to let fans touch the medal, and get pictures taken with the newly-minted star.

3- 6 p.m. // Hope for break before next stop, and SLEEP. Nope. Back-to-back interviews with the New York Times and the NBC-Chicago station.

7 p.m. // The United Ski and Snowboard Association Dinner at Deer Valley. First real meal since hamburger at 10:00 p.m. the night before.

9:00 p.m. // Goes to Park City for taping of Jay Leno and David Letterman segments, both done remotely. Jay Leno segment aired Monday night, while the Letterman segment aired Tuesday. Jay asks, "What are you going to do with your medal?" Kelly answers, "Hang it in my bedroom above my autographed photo of Britney Spears." Britney then appears in the Jay Leno studio, and asks Kelly for her autograph. How cool is that?

12:45 a.m. // Back to the USSA House in Park City for a party celebrating the men's sweep of the halfpipe medals. Ducks into bathroom. Fans spot Kelly, get pictures taken with Kelly and her medal in the bathroom. No food here, but plenty of Red Bulls for a nice jolt of caffeine. Kelly now sporting a temporary cast on her right wrist from an injury that happened during her final run.?

6:00 a.m. // Leaves for New York for appearance on Letterman, a highlight of any "gold-medal" media experience.

How does Kelly feel about her whirlwind schedule? Is the experience of winning a gold-medal what she thought it would be like? "I really never thought about what it was going to be like, because I didn't know it was going to happen,” said Kelly, who was going up against seasoned veterans like Byrnes and Shannon Dunn. "It's been great to be a part of something so huge."

In Like Flynn: This story was written as part of a series of articles covering the U.S. Olympic Team as part of my In Like Flynn column as a member of the award-winning 2002 U.S. Olympic Committee New Media & Press Team.

No comments: