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Monday, January 28, 2013
Suspense around X Games gold

By Kelly Clark

Clark
Kelly Clark won Olympic halfpipe gold in 2002 and four Winter X SuperPipe golds (2006, 2011-13).

If you thought Saturday's X Games SuperPipe final was suspenseful to watch, I can tell you it was just as much of a nail-biter in person. In classic contest form it started snowing right when we were supposed to go off. It hasn't snowed much this whole winter, let alone in pipe finals! So there we are, it's snowing, and then the college basketball game that was on went into overtime so we had to wait. Ideally you want to go straight from practice into your runs so your muscles don't cool down too much, but Saturday's 20-minute court hold turned into 40 minutes! And then the fog moved in. It was definitely a funny night with tons of variables in the mix. Luckily, I managed to get one last practice run right before they closed the pipe for competition.

I got to drop in last, which is the best position to have since you get to watch everyone else and know what everyone has done -- and what you have to beat. So there I was, strapped in and I knew exactly what Elena (Hight) had done. She landed the first double backside alley-oop rodeo for women in the history of the sport! I know it's a contest, and I'm out to win, but what she did for our sport was incredible. But regardless of whether someone is winning or losing or making a groundbreaking leap forward for our sport, I've gotta drop in.

My first run didn't go well -- I ended up falling on the last trick and landed in last place. So I just hit the reset button and told myself that it was still like any other contest with two more runs to go. (The X Games is unique in that it is a progressive three-run format, whereas most competitions only have two.)

On my second run I missed a grab on my front nine, but it was enough to put me up into second place, which I was happy with. Once you get something under your belt you feel more confident.

Then Elena went again right before me and blew up on her last hit, leaving just me standing at the top, the last person to go. I knew I had nothing to lose. I could throw everything I had at it, and I did. It was probably one of the best runs I've ever done in terms of execution and technical tricks linked together. It was something I'd been working on and had done a version of last year at the European X Games in the full stride of the season, but riding at that level in January in Aspen is so awesome. I just look at what I've got to build on for the rest of the season and it's exciting!

For me it's all about my own bar and I hope I set it high enough to come in on top.

I didn't know dropping in if this was going to be enough technically to overcome Elena, who was really the one to beat. It felt like the judges deliberated for 10 minutes while we were standing there looking at each other with the cameras on us. And then the result: I won by the smallest of margins: 91.33 to Elena’s 90.00 for my third straight X Games gold.

So what kinds of crazy celebrations ensued? Probably less than you might think. We didn't even get back to the house for dinner till 11:30 after everything wrapped up. I did go out to meet up with some friends, but I was the first one home and into bed! After all, I had media interviews to do first thing in the morning, laundry and packing to do, and then a drive to Denver for practice for the Park City Grand Prix. I'm in the middle of a seven-week trip with five contests, and this is the start of my last four. Next it's the Grand Prix, then over to the Burton European Open in Switzerland, and on to Russia for the World Cup, which is a test event for the Olympics in Sochi next year. That's how it goes and this is what we do! So I’m road warrior-ing it all up. I will definitely enjoy processing it all on my drive to Denver, though. And I’ve got about 600 text messages to get to as well, but I won't do that while driving!