Clark Wins First U.S. Gold


Park City, Utah Feb. 10, 2002 (AP by Eddie Pells)--Snowboarder Kelly Clark won America's first gold medal of these Olympics on Sunday with a high-flying, dominating performance on the halfpipe.

With the song ``Welcome to the Jungle'' by Guns and Roses blaring in the background, Clark, an 18-year-old junior world champion, put in a run to remember. She flew higher and landed more dangerous jumps than anyone in the field.

Clark's score of 47.9 easily beat Doriane Vidal of France, who scored a 43.0. Fabienne Reuteler of Switzerland won the bronze.

American Shannon Dunn, the bronze medalist in Nagano, finished fifth and teammate Tricia Byrnes was sixth.

But the day belonged to Clark, and to snowboarders all over who have tried to buck their widely perceived image as a bunch of slacker rebels--and waged a battle among themselves, trying to decide if competing in the Olympics stays true to the individualistic nature of the game.

On Sunday, the Olympics seemed like just the right place for this sport.

In the packed stands, young men painted out ``U.S.A.'' on their bare chests in the subfreezing cold. Before the event, break dancers boogied in the parking lot. A rock band played during intermission.

It was all part of an X-treme day that belonged to Clark, the Vermont resident who won medals in three of her first four World Cup events this season, but never on a stage as big as this.

Before her second run--the one that gave her the gold--she stood at the top of the halfpipe, and pumped a fist before she began.

She won the event with a maneuver called a McTwist, a 540-degree inverted spin, then followed with a 720-degree jump at the bottom.

Before that, she jumped higher above the lip of the halfpipe than any of her competitors. It's called amplitude, which carries extra weight in the world of Olympic judging, and Clark was up to the task.

After her score was announced, Clark jumped into the arms of her coach, then scaled one of the restraining fences to celebrate with some more people she knows.

While that played out, Vidal looked on with a smile--knowing there was no beating the American on this day.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press