When Team USA Olympic snowboarder Kelly Clark failed to make the medal table at the Winter Olympics this year, she was understandably disappointed. She would have hoped that the hours of dedication, sacrifice and relentless practice would yield that coveted medal – but it wasn’t to be.
On Monday (Feb. 12), Clark qualified for the women’s halfpipe finals at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang — her fifth Olympic appearance. However, after three magnificent runs, she landed just out of medal range at fourth place.
But due to one remarkable moment of spiritual revelation a number of years ago, Clark became convinced that falling short in her career should never get her down.
The moment came about at a competition over a decade ago, when she heard someone tell a young female competitor who wiped out, “It’s all right, God still loves you.” The simple remark captivated the snowboarder, and she returned to her hotel in search of a Bible. When she couldn’t find one, Clark tracked down the fellow athlete to ask her more about her faith. “I think you might be a Christian and I think you need to tell me about God,” she remembers saying.
That encounter changed her life, and Clark ended up giving her life to Jesus.
“He was very real, very present in my life,” she told the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. “I gave my heart to the Lord that day.”
Indeed, as Faithwire previously reported, this former Olympic gold medalist even declares her love for the Lord on a sticker attached to the underside of her snowboard, “Jesus, I cannot hide my love,” it reads. Following her halfpipe runs, Clark summed up her performance with a simple message of gratitude: “I just kind of did what I could and that’s all I could do on a day like today … I am grateful I could put down some runs today.”
But more importantly, Clark declares that her faith in God means that she never has to feel any pressure, nor deal with any lingering disappointment – she knows Jesus loves her regardless.
“It became this thing that I was made to do and I could actually enjoy, and there was so much freedom in it because I wasn’t doing it to prove to people who I was,” she wrote of her snowboarding career. “Through my relationship with God I learned who I was, and was comfortable in who I was. But I’ll tell you, I’ve never had more fun snowboarding, and I’ve never been more free.”
But this champ is not confined to the competition slopes. Clark is also committed to running her foundation, which seeks to help underprivileged children get a start in snowboarding. She is also devoted to encouraging other young snowboarders in their careers. One such talent was Chloe Kim. Around nine years ago, an 8-year-old Kim was tugging at Clark’s jacket as she stood in a lift line, desperate for some words of wisdom from her snowboarding idol.
Now, it is Kim who is clutching the gold medal in South Korea.
Kim even presented Clark with the Order of Ikkos medallion, an honor which an Olympic medalist can bestow someone who has influenced them. While it is usually awarded to a coach, Kim decided to honor her teammate.
“She has been there for me every step of the way,” Kim said during a gathering at USA House, as reported by USA Today. “Ever since then, she really took me under her wing, has guided me through every possible situation good and bad and I’m so happy to call her my friend.”
“Your dreams are too small if they only include you,” Kelly said after accepting the award. Tom Kelly, vice president of U.S. Ski & Snowboard, said that remark was typical of this champion snowboarder: “That just said so much about what Kelly is about and how she’s had such impact on these young girls,” he added.
Despite this being the first time Clark has finished outside the medal table, she is keeping the whole experience in a healthy perspective.
“I think the medals are wonderful, and I’ve given my life to pursue them, but seeing a life that’s changed, that is the best use of influence,” the snowboarder added.
It wasn’t a fairytale ending this year, nor did she receive the prestigious coronation as an “Olympic champion,” but, importantly, Clark knows that this does not alter God’s love for her.
“I started to understand that I didn’t get my worth from people or from the things that I did,” the snowboarder explained to Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
“It was from Christ. If I hadn’t had that shift in my life, I think my world would have come crumbling down.”