Kelly Clark

Kelly Clark makes her own snowboard (video)

Leave a comment

Kelly Clark‘s halfpipe performance at the Sochi Olympics could aptly be called a Kelly Clark production.

The 2002 Olympic champion recently visited Burton Snowboards in her home state of Vermont and helped create one of the boards she might use this season and in Sochi.

NBC’s WPTZ has video here.

A man named Thunder, who builds Burton snowboards, helped Clark along in a process that necessitated the use of safety goggles.

“I know it’s a little hesitant,” Clark said. “You’re like, ‘Should I be making this?’

“I just appreciate it that much more. You know what goes into making it when you’re riding it. You just have that much more of a connection to the board and to the brand.”

Clark said she’ll have “a handful” of snowboards for Sochi, not just the one she helped build. Her Olympic place is not guaranteed, though. Competition for the four Olympic spots on the U.S. women’s halfpipe team will be fierce.

All four 2010 Olympic team members are in the running, including Clark, 2006 Olympic champion Hannah Teter, 2006 Olympic silver medalist Gretchen Bleiler and two-time Olympian Elena Hight. There’s also the younger generation, led by 2013 world champion Arielle Gold, 17.

The riders will go through a five-event qualification run-up, where their top two finishes will determine the standings. The Olympic team is expected to be announced Jan. 22.

At the Olympics, all four U.S. riders will be medal contenders, along with Australian Torah Bright, the defending gold medalist.

It doesn't get any better than building your own board! Thx @burtonsnowboard & @thunderware #feelgood

A post shared by kelly clark (@thekellyclark) on

U.S. snowboarder briefly paralyzed in New Zealand crash

Ragan Smith, after watching in Rio, leads P&G Championships

Leave a comment

Ragan Smith could do nothing more than watch in Rio as the Final Five dominated. The roles reversed at the P&G Championships on Friday night.

Smith, a Rio Olympic alternate, easily topped the all-around standings on the first of two nights of competition that will determine national champions.

Oh, and Simone Biles and Laurie Hernandez were among those in the Honda Center crowd in Anaheim.

It’s the beginning of a new era for U.S. women’s gymnastics. None of the Rio Olympians are competing this weekend, but all five could come back for a Tokyo 2020 run.

For now, the spotlight is on Smith.

“It’s kind of nice, like, having a new generation coming up,” Smith, who is coached by 1992 Olympic bronze medalist Kim Zmeskal Burdette, said on NBCSN. “I think it’s a little less pressure, but I still kind of feel like it’s the same because I had no idea what was going to happen last year.”

The 17-year-old Texan leads by 1.3 points over Riley McCusker going into the final day Sunday (7 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app). Full scores are here. A four-woman team for October’s world championships will be named after a camp later this summer.

Smith overcame minor flaws on her first routine — uneven bars — and more significant ones on her next — balance beam. A solid floor exercise and vault gave her a first-day lead six tenths shy of Biles’ average margin from 2013 through 2016.

The second- and third-highest scores Friday actually came from the earlier junior division. With no team event at this year’s worlds, senior depth is less necessary.

Smith, after just missing the Rio Olympic team in her first year as a senior gymnast, won the AT&T American Cup on March 4 despite a beam fall. That made her the favorite this week.

The rest of the field — with no Olympians for the first time since 2008 — could not keep pace Friday. Smith’s top challengers coming in were McCusker and Morgan Hurd.

McCusker, who shares a coach with Hernandez, reeled back some difficulty. She was on crutches with a cast on her wrist in early July.

Hurd, a first-year senior who competes in glasses, took two out-of-bounds steps and sat down on back-to-back floor exercise passes.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

P&G CHAMPS: Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview
TV Schedule | Final Five Updates

Simone Biles says she’s back in the gym (video)

Leave a comment

Simone Biles is back in the gym.

In between giggles, Biles said she returned to the gym two weeks ago in an NBCSN interview at the P&G Championships in Anaheim on Friday night.

“I actually started, like, two Fridays ago,” Biles said. “I’m weak. But I’m coming back. I’m just doing conditioning and basics right now.”

Biles last competed at the Rio Olympics, winning five medals, including four golds, for the greatest single-Games medal haul by a female gymnast in nearly three decades. That came after Biles swept every U.S. and world all-around title in that four-year Olympic cycle.

The 20-year-old said late last year and early this year that she planned to return to training in late 2017 or early 2018 with an eye on Tokyo 2020.

“It’s OK to sit out one [year],” Biles said. “I can’t imagine being out on the floor now.”

Biles has not set a return to competition. Her longtime coach, Aimee Boorman, moved from Texas to Florida after Rio.

If Biles makes the Tokyo 2020 team, she can attempt to become the first woman to repeat as Olympic all-around champion since the late Czech Věra Čáslavská in 1964 and 1968.

Gabby Douglas attempted this feat in Rio but did not qualify for the all-around final.

Douglas said earlier this month that she has not decided whether she will return to competition.

Aly Raisman said in September that she plans to return to training after taking 2017 off. Laurie Hernandez said she hopes to go for 2020 but has not set a return to training.

Madison Kocian is the lone member of the Olympic team who has competed since Rio, but it wasn’t on the elite stage. The Texan did a full freshman season for UCLA with a torn labrum and partially torn rotator cuff in her shoulder.

Kocian said in June that she has not decided if she will return to elite gymnastics.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

P&G CHAMPS: Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview
TV Schedule | Final Five Updates