South Tahoe snowboarders take two podium spots at X Games pipe
The Aspen Times
ASPEN – Conscious of the physical and mental demands of a full competition schedule, snowboarder Kelly Clark said she’s been focusing on going into contests at 90 percent in an attempt to avoid both injury and maxing herself out.
On Friday night, the Vermont product proved that 90 percent is more than enough to again rule the Buttermilk superpipe.
The throngs of spectators who braved temperatures in the single digits were treated to another virtuoso performance from the sport’s most consistently dominant star. Clark set the pace in Run 1, then overwhelmed the field with the amplitude and technicality that has helped her win 13 consecutive superpipe contests. Her third and final run, highlighted by her signature 1080, garnered a score of 93.66 from judges.
The effort was good for a 10-point victory over her nearest competitor and, more important, helped Clark become the first woman in Winter X history to win back-to-back snowboard superpipe gold.
“I’m definitely coming off the best season I’ve ever had, and I’m starting this year much the same,” The 28-year-old said. “I’m healthy, I’m having fun and I’m learning new things. I think those are great things to get me riding the best.”
Clark appeared to be at her best at last year’s games, where she won in a landslide and became the first female snowboarder to land a 1080 in competition.
There was little drama this time around, either.
Elena Hight of South Lake Tahoe, Calif., momentarily displaced Clark at the top of the leaderboard with a second run that featured a stylish backside air, back-to-back 720s, a frontside 540, backside 900 and an alley-oop backside rodeo. She was awarded a score of 80.66, a number she bested by three points during her final run down the pipe.
The 2011 bronze medalist had to settle for silver, however, as Clark answered with a second-run 90 to all but put this competition out of reach. Hannah Teter, also of South Lake Tahoe, settled for third with a second-run 76, while four-time Winter X gold medalist Gretchen Bleiler of Snowmass Village wound up fourth.
“It definitely feels good. I’ve had some ups and downs here at X Games. I’ve definitely had quite a few injuries, but it definitely feels good to be more consistent and riding well and having fun,” said Hight, who injured her elbow in practice before last year’s games but still managed to compete. “Tonight, I was really out there to have fun. I wasn’t worried about the scores.”
Clark had the repeat secured before her third run. That didn’t keep her from delivering one dynamic victory lap, however, one that featured a frontside air, backside 540, frontside 1080, Cab 720 and a frontside 540.
She soared more than 14 feet out the pipe on the 1080.
“Last year, I really started out trying to be intentional. I didn’t want to just do things because it was Olympic year or not an Olympic year, because it was Winter X Games or wasn’t Winter X Games,” Clark said. “I really just focused on the tricks I wanted to do – you saw it tonight in the victory lap, having the contest won but still pushing myself and pushing my riding.”
That attention to detail has impressed competitors.
“It’s a little intimidating (competing against her). She’s so powerful and is always so consistent,” Teter said.
Added Hight: “She’s definitely on her game – no one can deny that. It’s awesome to be out there and be shredding with her, even learning from her and taking some of that knowledge and putting it to the test.”
The Aspen Times is a sister paper of the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
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