Snowboarding legend Kelly Clark has risen to become a famous, world-class athlete that has stood on the Olympic podium, received a Gold Medal with the full understanding that all glory belongs to God.
Considered a snowboarding icon, Clark has established a reputation as one of the best athletes to ever take to the slopes. She stunned the sport with her early success and found faith along the way.
The Mammoth Lakes, Californian, earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team in 2000. She was 16 years old at the time, and recalled the experience that called her to God. After a friend didn’t make the Olympic cuts, Clark overheard someone consoling her.
“Hey, it’s all right,” the colleague said. “God still loves you. You don’t need to cry.”
That moment of loving support stuck with Clark and she reached out by going to the woman’s hotel room later.
“I think you might be a Christian and I think you need to tell me about God,” Clark recalled. “I knocked on the right door.”
“I started to understand that I didn’t get my worth from people or from the things that I did,” Clark reportedly said. “It was from Christ. If I hadn’t had that shift in my life, I think my world would have come crumbling down.”
In 2002, at only 18 years old, Clark won her first Olympic Gold. She was the youngest person to ever reached her sport’s finals and has emerged as the winningest snowboarder in history.
The Call to Jesus Saved Clark
At a young age, Clark’s first goal was to demonstrate to her parents that she could make a career from snowboarding. More athletes fall short of gold than achieve it in sports. But, Clark was quickly recognized as a special talent. Her fierce acrobatics made her a national icon in the subculture. Her first Gold Medal has a watershed moment in her life and for the sport that had only been adopted in 1998.
“In all those external successes, I was really looking for that sense of significance,” she reportedly said. “I think our greatest need as humans is to be significant, and we’ll look for that everywhere. That’s just what I did with my snowboarding.”
But only a year removed from standing at the pinnacle of the sport, her sense of worth and future seemed unclear.
Prior to the 2003-04 snowboarding season, coach Rick Bower recognized that the being under the microscope and pressure of being a top world athlete was wearing on the young star.
“She was not feeling connected to anything,” Bower reportedly said. “She was really struggling. You could see that struggle.”
During this time, Kelly’s close friend Natalie McLeod wrote a prayer in her personal journal that simply stated: “Jesus, I just ask that you would save this person.”
Months later, Clark learned about the prayer from McLeod’s brother and was invited to pray together. Her calling to God was underway and she explored Christianity during the 2004 season. She took Bible study, dove into Scripture and made connections into her own life.
Literature such as pastor Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life” helped ground her in an understanding about how Jesus lifts people up through hope. Other prominent Christian snowboarders supported her spiritual growth, including Tommy Czeschin, Andy Finch and Luke Wynen.
Veteran Athlete and Woman Of God
At 34 years old, Clark has won more than 70 competitions, enjoyed a 16-win streak, three Olympic medals, seven X Games golds, and five World Snowboard Tour titles. She credits taking Jesus Christ into her heart with her long-term success. Even during low points and after a tremendous wipe out during the 2006 Olympics, she placed her trust and faith in God. That faith was rewarded as she went on to be the only woman to land a 1080 during competition.
Today, she wears five Olympic Team commemorative rings after holding on to earn a spot in the Pyeongchang games. Stacked against much younger competitors, Clark managed to reach the Snowboarding Halfpipe final but did not medal.
Hugging team members and encouraging competitors, Clark threw her support behind Chloe Kim, who emerged as a superstar at the South Korean games.
The young Gold medalist presented Clark with the Order of Ikkos medallion, one of the highest honors an Olympic medalist can bestow on a mentor. Although the Order is generally reserved for a coach, it was fitting Clark’s Christian support be reciprocated.
“She has been there for me every step of the way,” Kim said. “Ever since then, she really took me under her wing, has guided me through every possible situation good and bad and I’m so happy to call her my friend.”
This long and storied journey might not have been without that fateful knock on a hotel room door and a call to Jesus.
~ 1776 Christian