Kelly Clark
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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

Three questions with Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea before the U.S. Championships

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2016 U.S. national champions Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea changed coaches to kick off the new season. Now under Dalilah Sappenfield in Colorado Springs, the oft-injured team said they’re healthier than ever heading into the U.S. Championships this weekend in Detroit.

The 2018 Four Continents Champions got off to a “slow start” this year, with a seventh place finish a silver medal on the Challenger Series. On the Grand Prix series, though, they had a fifth place finish in Japan and a silver medal-performance in France. It was their first-ever Grand Prix medal. They told reporters on a media teleconference ahead of nationals that both of their Grand Prix performances “showed growth.” Since then, they’ve spent time drilling on their programs.

Here’s what we learned from their teleconference:

1. They’ve made huge strides from where they are today compared to where they were this time before nationals a year ago.

Tarah Kayne: “There’s a huge difference for me specifically mentally and physically. Last year I was coming off of a right knee surgery where I had my patella tendon reconstructed. For nationals, we were just getting started back into competitive shape. We had maybe a handful of free skate run-throughs under our belts going into nationals. I was just starting to get comfortable doing throws again. We were purposefully trying to make our throws smaller to cut back the impact on my right knee, and to make it as safe as possible.”

“Now this season, I am feeling so much healthier and stronger. We’re making our throws bigger again! Which is a great feeling for me to feel comfortable and to be in that place physically. And also mentally to feel safe doing that. A huge part of that has been being at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and training under Dalilah who I find to be very empowering.”

Danny O’Shea: “We’re healthy. That’s been the goal for a very long time. We have been elusive for a lot of our career so far. Feeling healthy going into nationals is a very comforting place to be in. Not having to scramble, rely purely on mental toughness to overcome what may be a lack of physical training is a very nice place to be in.

2. They feel like they got a fresh start under their new coach.

TK: “With Dalilah, we started from scratch. We just came to her and let her mold us. Whatever she wanted us to do, we did. We didn’t question things. We didn’t say, ‘that’s not how we do things, how we’re used to.’ We just let her change whatever she wanted to change because we didn’t want to get the same results we have always gotten. We wanted to improve. We wanted to be bigger; we wanted to be better; we wanted to be faster.”

DO: “When you’re with a coach for seven years as a team, things are second-nature. There’s been definite differences in what we’ve been doing throughout the year. Some took some getting used to. Some were very comfortable right off the bat. Overall, it’s been a positive for us and that we’re in a very good place physically right now, which is helping us be able to train hard and keep pushing throughout the year.”

3. Kayne and O’Shea don’t want anyone else to miss out on the Olympics (like they did, as 2018 Olympic alternates) or the world championships. And with only one U.S. pair spot at Worlds this year, they know what’s at stake.

DO: “It’s on our minds.”

TK: “It’s a hard job. It’s a hard position to be in. I wish I wasn’t in this position. I would love to be walking into this with three spots and have a little bit of wiggle room… it’s a job. I have to go and do my job at nationals to get to Worlds. And then I have to do my job at Worlds to make sure no one else is in this position again… We’re capable at this place and time to accomplish that goal for ourselves and for the United States.”

DO: “We have always gone into nationals trying to skate our best, but this year we know we have to go and do that and we have to win. You wanna go into every competition to try and be your best, but with the way things are, we’re going in to win nationals and make that world team again, and go to Worlds and start turning this around. We don’t want to have one spot for Worlds or one spot for the Olympics any longer.”

MORE: Three questions with Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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U.S. junior champions crowned in ladies’ and men’s events

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Gabriella Izzo is the newest junior ladies’ national champion, crowned this week at the U.S. Championships in Detroit. Junior ladies’ national champions of the past include eventual Olympians Mirai Nagasu, Gracie Gold, Polina Edmunds and Bradie Tennell.

Izzo had a commanding lead after the short program, with 60.97 points, where she pulled off her first-ever triple Lutz, triple loop combination in competition. (However, it was deemed under-rotated.) Regardless, her 111.45 points in the free skate combined for 172.42 points and the gold medal.

Audrey Shin, who actually won the free skate by just over a point, earned the silver medal with 165.61 points. Emilia Murdock took home the bronze with 154.48 points.

On the junior men’s side, Ryan Dunk rebounded from second after the short program to win the event. His 132.85-point free skate was enough to crack the 200-point overall score, the only man in the field to do so, and win the gold.

Men’s junior champions include eventual world champion Nathan Chen (twice) as well as Olympians Vincent Zhou and Jason Brown.

Dinh Tran finished second with 196.03 points after a fourth-place short program. Joonsoo Kim, who lead after the short program on Tuesday, ended up with the bronze medal with 187.95 points.

NBC Sports Gold’s “Figure Skating Pass” will live stream each junior competition and replays will also be available on-demand. Check out the full schedule and live streaming information here.

The junior rhythm dance took place earlier Wednesday. Siblings Caroline and Gordon Green lead the field with 70.82 points, while Avonley Nguyen and Vadym Kolesnik are second with 65.92 points. The brother-sister team of Oona and Gage Brown are in third with 63.34 heading into Friday’s junior free dance.

Also Wednesday, Laiken Lockley and Keenan Prochnow took the lead in the junior pairs’ short program. The junior pairs’ free skate is Thursday. Kate Finster and Balazs Nagy are second, followed by Isabelle Martins and Ryan Bedard in third.

MORE: Full streaming schedule

As a reminder, you can watch the junior and senior U.S. Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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