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Kelly Clark to end season at Burton U.S. Open, then evaluate

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Kelly Clark said “there’s a chance” that Saturday’s Burton U.S. Open halfpipe final will be the last contest of her unmatched snowboarding career.

“But I think I’ve got a lot of time ahead of me just to kind of evaluate how I’m doing and what else I have left to accomplish,” the five-time U.S. Olympian said in a phone interview Thursday after qualifying for the six-rider final. “I think it’ll really come down to that. I don’t know much more at this time.”

What is left to accomplish? Clark owns three Olympic medals and finished fourth in two other Olympics, including in PyeongChang, when her practice time was curtailed due to injury.

She owns 14 X Games halfpipe medals, including seven golds, and seven U.S. Open wins among more than 70 contest victories, most by a rider of either gender.

“If it was about accomplishing things, I’ve had one of the most incredible snowboarding careers anyone could ever hope to have,” she continued. “I’ve probably won and lost every event in snowboarding, but it would come down to if I’m done progressing my riding. I think that’ll be a big determiner about when I decide to call it quits. If I’m done learning stuff. If I’m done being challenged. If I’m done progressing. That’ll be when I start to evaluate if it’s time to hang it up.”

The U.S. Open, where the 34-year-old Clark has competed for nearly two decades and attended since she was 10 or 11 years old, is the traditional season-ending event.

“I was a fan long before I was ever an athlete,” said Clark, who grew up nine miles from where the U.S. Open was formerly held in Stratton, Vt., and sought autographs from the riders she read about in magazines or saw on posters.

Clark, like many riders she’s talked to this week, had not strapped on a snowboard since the Feb. 13 Sochi final before arriving in Vail, Colo.

“The Olympics is such a journey. It’s not just one event. It ends up, inevitably, being four years,” she said. “So I was really looking forward to coming to the Open because I felt like it would just be good to get back on the board, get back in a contest and just get back to normal.”

Clark eeked into the final in the sixth and last spot, landing a pair of 720s in her best qualifying run. She plans to throw a 1080 in the three-run final, facing a field that includes Olympic champion Chloe Kim.

Clark beat Kim, who is half her age, at the fourth and final U.S. Olympic qualifier in January. A week later, Clark suffered a bruised tibia and a fracture on the top of that bone in an X Games crash. That was two weeks before her Olympic competition.

“It was quite a journey just trying to see what I would be able to do at the Olympics, what that would look like,” said Clark, who came back last season from left hamstring and hip labrum tears. “I have the best medical staff anyone could ever hope for, and we made a really good plan to get me through that event. Not only just to get me through the event, but to do it really well. I would have enjoyed more practice … but I can honestly say during the event it didn’t affect my performance.”

Clark said she’s still not fully healed, but the injury was not serious enough for surgery to ever be an option. She will compete Saturday, then head home, where her garden needs work, for a restorative offseason.

“My dog will be a lot happier,” she joked.

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MORE: Best snowboarding moments from PyeongChang Olympics

Mikaela Shiffrin wins final slalom for best career season (video)

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Mikaela Shiffrin won her 12th World Cup race this season and seventh slalom, both personal bests, at the World Cup Finals in Are, Sweden, on Saturday.

Shiffrin, who clinched her second World Cup overall title and fifth slalom season title before the last races of the campaign this weekend, prevailed by 1.58 seconds over Swiss Wendy Holdener. PyeongChang gold medalist Frida Hansdotter of Sweden was third.

“The slalom has always been really close to my heart,” said Shiffrin, who won the last two slaloms this season after a shocking fourth-place finish in PyeongChang. “To finish with a run like that was super special.”

Full results are here.

Shiffrin matched Lindsey Vonn‘s American record for World Cup wins in one season — 12 — with one more race Sunday. Only Swiss Vreni Schneider has more women’s World Cup wins in a single campaign with 14.

Shiffrin, who turned 23 on Tuesday, also moved into solo fifth place on the women’s World Cup wins list with 43, including 23 victories in the last two seasons.

If Shiffrin keeps it up, she can move into the top three next season, though Lindsey Vonn‘s record 82 is a ways off.

“I’m not thinking about that so much,” Shiffrin said. “It’s way too soon to set that as my goal.”

Shiffrin is also three World Cup slalom wins shy of the record 35 held by retired Austrian Marlies Schild, whom Shiffrin supplanted as the world’s top slalom skier in 2013.

The World Cup Finals conclude Sunday with the women’s giant slalom. Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA will air live coverage of the second run at 7:30 a.m. ET.

“After today I’m really looking forward to going to the start one more time this season and hammering down,” Shiffrin said.

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MORE: Lindsey Vonn’s Olympic legacy

Katie Ledecky beaten in NCAA Championships individual medley

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Katie Ledecky lost an NCAA Championships race for the first time in eight career finals, taking second in the 400-yard individual medley on Friday.

Stanford teammate Ella Eastin easily beat Ledecky by 3.69 seconds and grabbed the American and NCAA records from Ledecky, too. Eastin’s 3:54.60 is 1.93 seconds faster than Ledecky’s time from the Pac-12 Championships last month.

How did she do it?

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Eastin said on ESPNU. “I’ve built a lot of endurance this year, and it really showed.”

Eastin is decorated in her own right. She three-peated as NCAA 400-yard IM champion and held the American record in the event before Ledecky lowered it last month.

Eastin would have made the 2017 World Championships team had she not been disqualified for an illegal turn after finishing in second place at nationals.

Ledecky, a sophomore, has never contested the 400m IM at a U.S. Championships, Olympics or world championships, nor did she race the 400-yard IM at 2017 NCAAs. She raced the 400 IM instead of the 200 freestyle on Friday.

All of Ledecky’s races at major meets before Friday were in freestyle events. Her only defeat in a major international meet individual final was the 200m freestyle at 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky won five NCAA titles last year and the last two nights anchored the 800-yard freestyle relay and captured the 500-yard freestyle by eight seconds.

Meet results are here.

Later Friday, Lilly King of Indiana three-peated in the 100-yard breaststroke, breaking her American and NCAA records and winning in 56.25 seconds. King is also the Olympic and world champion in the 100m breast, plus the world-record holder.

“Always excited to get the record, but was really hoping to break 56 today,” King said.

Louisville’s Mallory Comerford became the second woman after Missy Franklin to break 1:40 in the 200-yard freestyle, winning in 1:39.80. Co-Olympic 100m free champ Simone Manuel of Stanford was third. Comerford and Ledecky tied for the 2017 NCAA 200 free title.

Stanford’s Ally Howe won the 100-yard backstroke in 49.70, one hundredth shy of her NCAA and American records. Olympic 100m backstroke silver medalist Kathleen Baker of Cal-Berkeley was third.

NCAAs conclude Saturday. Ledecky swims the 1,650-yard freestyle. She is the overwhelming favorite, having gone 35 seconds faster than anyone this season.

Ledecky hasn’t discussed with Stanford whether she will return for her junior season or turn pro, according to the school.

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