BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. – For Kelly Clark, second was about as good as first.
The American snowboarding icon didn’t take her usual place at the top of the podium on Saturday, but that was OK. Clark took second to Australian Torah Bright, the 2010 Olympic gold medalist, at the Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships.
More importantly, Clark put herself in good position to make a fourth Olympics. The competition here serves as the first of five selection events that the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association will use to pick a team.
Riders are selected based on their best two results in the five contests. Because Bright is not American, Clark’s second is as good as first when it comes to U.S team selection.
“I’ve never been so happy to get second and I feel like I won this thing today,” said Clark, 30. “Ultimately what it means for me is hopefully I’ll have assurance of that spot sooner where I can simply focus on my riding. That’s why I want to get these first few events to shift gears and work on my snowboarding.”.
Taking third was 13-year-old American Chloe Kim, who was competing in her first Dew Tour event. Because Kim is too young to make the Olympic team, Arielle Gold’s fourth-place finish will earn her second-place points for selection.
The 17-year-old Gold and Kaitlyn Farrington are contenders to make the team in a competitive field that includes four former Olympians. In Saturday’s final, Farrington finished fifth (third for selection points) while Gretchen Bleiler finished sixth (fourth for points) and Elena Hight was eighth (fifth for points).
Bleiler and Hight have been on the past two Olympic teams. Hannah Teter, a two-time Olympic medalist, did not make the final.
But it was Kim who continued an unexpected weekend. The eighth grader qualified second in the event before landing on the podium with a score of 89.4 thanks to a run that included three consecutive 720s.
She plans to use the finish as an excuse to not do her math homework.
“It’s just been really exciting. I have excuses to not do schoolwork,” said the Torrance, Calif. Native. “But now I have to go back to school because I’m falling behind. I had a great time here.”.
Kim wasn’t bummed that her age will keep her from trying to qualify to go to Sochi. She’s setting her sights on 2018 when the games will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
It’ll be a family reunion of sorts. Kim’s parents were born there.
“I have a lot of family over there,” Kim said. “That’d be fun.”.
Clark has often spoken that she hopes to progress the sport to where her ceiling is the next generation’s floor, and Kim’s showing is what she means. Kim trains at Mammoth, where Clark – a two-time Olympic medalist and the winningest snowboarder ever, male or female – also lives and trains.
“She’s one of the most promising up and coming kids that I’ve seen, and I think maybe we shouldn’t call her up and coming anymore cause she’s here. And I think she’s here to stay for a while,” said Clark. “You see good snowboarders come and go, but it’s people like Arielle and it’s people like Chloe that are good kids that are gonna be sustainable and are gonna be part of the sport for a while.”.
If anything, Clark has set the mold for that. Her first run of the day included a 1080, a move she was the first to land, and scored a 90.60. It wasn’t enough to beat Bright’s 95.40 first-run score, but in the eyes of Clark (and the U.S. Selection criteria) it might as well have been.