After winning the first-ever Olympic halfpipe snowboarding event for women in 2002, Kelly Clark talked about serving as a beacon for her sport.
“Snowboarders have their reputations,” she said at those Games in Salt Lake City. “But my doing this, especially in the U.S., says a lot. Maybe it will shine a light on snowboarding, and people will look at it in a different way.”
On Friday, Clark announced her retirement from competition, ending a storied career that included three medals over the span of five Games and enough thrilling performances to make good on her goal.
Over the better part of two decades, the 35-year-old added two bronze medals to her Salt Lake City gold while also amassing nine X Games titles and 14 World Cup victories.
Just as important, she served as mentor to a new generation of riders, including Chloe Kim, the 2018 Olympic champion, and Arielle Gold, who took bronze at those Games.
“She’s always been a huge inspiration for me throughout my career,” Gold said in Pyeongchang, South Korea, last February. “Always been looking out for me every step of the way.”
Clark plans to remain involved with the sport through her nonprofit foundation, media projects and the development of a new snowboard in collaboration with Burton.
A ceremony in her honor has been planned at the X Games in Aspen on Saturday.
“The next generation will take halfpipe snowboarding further than I ever could,” Clark said on the U.S. Olympic Committee website. “Today, I step away from competitive riding knowing that women’s snowboarding is alive and well, and in good hands.”
Follow @LAtimesWharton on Twitter