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First Person

Pipe dreams

Gold-medal-winning snowboarder Kelly Clark, ready for her fourth Olympic appearance, credits her intensity and Vermont upbringing for success in the halfpipe.

Mitchell Haaseth/NBC

My journey to Sochi started 3½ years ago. I’m not trying to cram for a test. I’ve learned in my Olympic experience that there’s a big difference between having potential and being prepared. I’ve done all the prep work. When I’m prepared, I get to enjoy it.

I say my goal is to enjoy it, but I wouldn’t be telling you the truth if I [said I] wasn’t going there to try to win. If you’re ever going to go for it, it’s at the Olympics.

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I never dreamed that I’d be at the height of my career at 30 years old. I’m coming off the three most successful years of my career. My life has been a testament to dreams becoming reality. I started snowboarding before it was cool. There were no X Games. There were no Olympics for snowboarders. No one worked out. It’s in a transition from a lifestyle to a sport.

I come from a small town in Vermont [West Dover], and I’ve exceeded everyone’s expectations, as well as my own. I love the support that a small community can give. I’m very thankful to have grown up on the East Coast and trained at Mount Snow, Vermont.

The varying conditions [in the East] get you ready. My coach always jokes that I’m a classically trained snowboarder. I’ve ridden in every condition you can possibly imagine. I’m ready for anything you throw at me. We can get very technical, but ultimately you have to be courageous and you have to be ready for what’s coming.

One of the greatest things I’ve learned is not to pull my identity or my self-worth from my performance and from what I do. Operating from that place has allowed me to have a long, successful career. I’m not snowboarding to prove to people who I am. I’m snowboarding because I love it.  

— As told to Shira Springer (Interview has been edited and condensed.)

TUNE IN The Olympic women’s halfpipe snowboarding event is set for Wednesday at 5 a.m. EST (qualification), 10 a.m. EST (semifinal), and 12:30 p.m. EST (final). nbcolympics.com

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