Olympic champions chilling out | SummitDaily.com

Olympic champions chilling out

LOVELAND – They’ve done the late-night talk show circuit, been on the cover of sports magazines and signed more autographs than they could possibly count. But all Olympic gold medalists Kelly Clark and Ross Powers really want to do this season is snowboard.

The two, who each won a gold medal in the 2002 Olympic halfpipe, have had very little time off since February. Now, before they’ve had a chance to blink, Clark and Powers are launching into a new season. And with it comes a whole new wave of media hype and competition, but not as much, they hope, as last year.

The Olympians are in Colorado this week as part of a national promotional tour with Burton, one of their key sponsors. They are lined up for a special autograph signing session at the 2002 Snow Sport Expo in Denver this weekend, but they made a special trip to Loveland Wednesday, for the simple purpose of taking a couple runs.

“This season, I’m looking forward to less pressure, I guess,” Clark said from the base of Chair One at Loveland, where the largest crowd of the season was making the most of the ski area’s first powder day.

“Last year was really high stress,” she said. “Every contest really meant a lot. This year, I just want to have fun and learn new tricks and not have everything mean too much.”

Clark, 19, opted to part with the U.S. Snowboard Team this season, and she plans to take each competition as it comes.

“On the (U.S.) team, it’s a lot of competing,” she said. “All that competing was really good for a while. I got on the team when I was 16, and it was great to have a coach and learn how to compete. They give you money to travel when no one else will. It’s nice to have someone make your arrangements when you don’t know what to do when you travel. Now, I kind of want to do my own thing – relax a bit, not go to so many contests. Plus, it opens a spot for someone else, someone younger, to have a chance on the team.”

Like Clark, Powers, 23, is a native of Vermont. Although he has taken every opportunity to go back home since the Olympics, his visits haven’t been longer than two weeks.

“We’ve been doing a lot of promotional stuff,” he said. “We’ve been really busy. One thing that’s important is just being able to go home and spend time with your friends and family. We had a little break this summer, but now it’s busy again. It will be nice to travel again and snowboard and not just do media stuff. I just want to snowboard.”

Powers won the bronze medal in the 1998 Olympic halfpipe event in Nagano, Japan, and came back to win the gold last February. Clark swept almost every competition she entered last season, including the Olympics, where she became the first American woman to ever win a gold medal in snowboarding.

“I’ll snowboard for as long as my body will last,” Powers said. “Competitively, I’d like to do it for another five years or so. I’d like to do the Olympics one more time, and I’m sure Kelly will be there. I don’t want to do as many contests as I did before. The travel circuit beats you up. It’s like, event, event, event … You never get to practice, so you’re not really learning.”

Both Powers and Clark said they would like to add a couple new tricks to their repertoires this season and experiment a bit, knowing their performances won’t make or break a spot on the Olympic team.

“I want to learn some bigger spins and maybe some switch spins,” Clark said. “I won’t do many contests if I’m not happy with how I’m riding. I’ll like competing more this season, knowing the only thing you’re going for is to do well that day.”

“It will be nice to go to some of the bigger contests and just go out and ride,” Powers added. “Just to ride for ourselves a little more. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

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