Olympic gold-medalist snowboarder Kelly Clark was standing in a lift line when she felt a tug on her sleeve.
Chloe Kim, then age 8, had spotted her snowboarding hero and was asking to ride up together.
Clark said sure.
Today Kim won her own Olympic gold. And Clark was there to see it – because she is still competing.
When Clark stood at the top of the pipe on the third and final run today, she was up against not only the best snowboarders from other countries but also her own legacy: the strength of the US women’s halfpipe team, which she has helped to mentor. Her teammates – some just half her age – have pushed her to reach greater heights, but they’ve also become some of her toughest competitors.
Indeed, it was another young American, Arielle Gold, who edged Clark out of a medal with an outstanding final run.
“Kelly is a huge part of why I’m here today and that’s what was bittersweet today, about it being between Kell and I for that third spot,” said Gold, who captured bronze behind China’s Liu Jiayu. “But she’s always been a huge inspiration to me throughout my career, always been looking out for me every step of the way whenever I needed it.”
So while Clark wasn’t on the podium today, she had her footprint all over it.
Despite her clear disappointment at not winning a medal in her fifth and possibly final Olympics Games, Clark was gracious even in defeat.
“I’ve had one of the most wonderful, successful snowboarding careers anyone could ever hope for, and I take great joy in seeing these young women succeed,” said Clark after her final run. “Where I finish, they get to start.”
Since winning gold in 2002, Clark has dramatically redefined how she thinks about success. And that stems in part from seeking a deeper purpose or sense of fulfillment that goes beyond medals – something a number of athletes at these Games have done through embracing causes, goals, or relationships…