Motivated Kelly Clark shrugs off critics after Olympic bronze

Kelly Clark
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Kelly Clark isn’t done snowboarding, not after four Olympics (three medals), 15 Winter X Games (nine medals) and more than 60 victories and 100 podium finishes.

She isn’t done, because she thinks she can still do better.

“I don’t feel like I’ve really hit my potential,” Clark said in New York last week. “I’m going to keep chasing down my dreams and chasing down the progression of my own personal riding and continuing to raise my own bar.”

Clark, 31, won bronze at the Sochi Olympics, when most predicted she would win gold.

What most didn’t see was Clark falling on all five of her practice runs and her first of two competition runs the night of the final.

She was the last rider to go on the second run and didn’t fall under that pressure. She posted a 90.75 to jump on the podium with gold medalist Kaitlyn Farrington and silver medalist Torah Bright.

“That was probably one of the greatest victories I’ve ever had,” Clark said. “My bronze medal run in Vancouver [2010] and in Sochi, it wasn’t my best snowboarding. But in the context of the events and in the situation that I was at, it took a lot more work to get those bronze medals than it did some of my X Games wins and even my Olympic gold in Salt Lake [City in 2002]. I think you value things based on what they cost you.”

You choked, she heard people say.

“If I was doing it for the medals, I would’ve quit a long time ago,” Clark responded.

She’s doing it for the same reasons as before Sochi — pursuing progression. After the Olympics, Clark rode all the way through May, including winning her seventh U.S. Open in March.

“She’s still the best, if not one of the best, easily,” U.S. snowboarding and freeskiing coach Mike Jankowski said. “The Olympics are a great event, but it’s one night.”

Clark is still perfecting her cab 1080, which she tried at a handful of events last season. The former high school tennis standout will begin the 2014-15 season at a U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colo., in the first week of December.

She loves snowboarding more now than when she started. Clark spent three weeks riding in Mt. Hood, Ore., in July, then trained in Chile and just got back from more riding in Austria.

“As long as I have things that I want to learn, that’ll be what governs [how long I compete],” Clark said. “For me, the Olympics aren’t a destination. They’re simply a wonderful addition to a great snowboarding career.”

Clark’s competition this season figures to include the surprise Olympic champion Farrington and the formidable 14-year-old Chloe Kim. Kim was born three months after Clark debuted at the Winter X Games in slopestyle and snowboard cross (but not halfpipe) in 2000.

Kim finished one spot behind Clark at the Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships and the Winter X Games last season, but she was too young for the Olympics. Clark will go for her fifth straight X Games halfpipe gold in Aspen, Colo., in late January, which would put her one behind Shaun White‘s streak that ended last year.

“I never really look at what the other girls are going to shape my approach,” Clark said. “I look at Kaitlyn, I look at Torah, [2006 Olympic champion] Hannah [Teter] and Chloe, you get inspired by what people do, but I never look at them to shape the decisions that I make.”

Hannah Kearney emotional about final moguls season

World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”

Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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