(News Senior Sports Columnist Jerry Sullivan is profiling U.S. athletes leading up to the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, which begin Feb. 7)
Clark, 30, will be competing in her fourth Olympics in the snowboard halfpipe and is a favorite to win gold. She has the most snowboard wins of anyone in history, male or female. Yes, even more than Shaun White. Clark was 67 wins and 109 podiums overall medals in 128 career events.
At age 18, Clark won gold in the halfpipe at Salt Lake City in 2002. She was fourth in Torino four years later, then won bronze in 2010 in Vancouver. After three Olympics, she might have decided to hang up the board. Instead, she got better. Clark won 16 straight events from 2011-12, and she became the first woman to land a frontside 1080 (three revolutions in the air) in 2011.
Clark had first done the frontside 1080 when she was 10 years old. A native of Newport, R.I., she grew up in Vermont. She and her friends would build jumps on the nearby slopes and do tricks until the ski patrol instructed them to quit.
She embraces her role as a women's snowboard pioneer, a model for young girls to follow. She says she wants to take snowboarding to "new places." Clark has emphasized fitness as the increasing rigors of the sport demanded it. She also became a Christian midway through her career. Snowboard insiders will not be surprised if she comes back for a fifth Games in South Korea in 2018.
"I never dreamed that I'd have an opportunity to make my fourth Olympic team and I'd still be pursuing this 12 years after Salt Lake," Clark told USA Today. "But for me, I love the sport more than ever."
She won her fourth straight Winter X Games gold last month. She was 16 consecutive competitions in a row from 2011-12.