Kelly Clark qualifies for Olympics, as does rider half her age
On the night Kelly Clark qualified for a record fifth Olympics, a woman half her age made her first team.
Clark, the most decorated female halfpipe rider with three Olympic medals and more than 70 career wins, notched another victory in the fourth and final qualifier Saturday night.
Maddie Mastro, who was born after Clark made her X Games debut in 2000, finished third in Mammoth Mountain, Calif.
They join the previously qualified Olympic favorite Chloe Kim (also born in 2000) as the three U.S. women to grab automatic berths for PyeongChang. The three automatic men’s qualifiers were decided last week, headlined by Shaun White.
A fourth rider is expected to be added for each gender, selected by a committee next week. The fourth man should be Chase Josey, who won Saturday night.
That fourth woman will likely be Sochi Olympian Arielle Gold. If that’s the case, 2006 Olympic champion Hannah Teter will miss the Olympics.
As would reigning X Games champion Elena Hight, a testament to the depth of U.S. women’s snowboarding.
The U.S. has a shot to sweep the Olympic halfpipe podium, with the top rivals coming from China and Spain.
Clark’s fifth and perhaps final Olympics (most for a female snowboarder) could bookend an incredible career.
In 2002, she became the youngest Olympic snowboarding champion at age 18. Next month, she can become the oldest Olympic snowboarding medalist.
In between, she also took bronze in 2010 and 2014 and won 10 X Games medals, including five golds.
Clark accomplished something new in this Olympic cycle -- returning from her first major injury.
The Vermont native tore her left hamstring and hip labrum in February 2016, underrotating a 1080 in practice. After surgery, her feet were bound together for a month.
Clark found it to be the biggest obstacle of her career. It overtook her fourth-place finish at the 2006 Winter Olympics, the only time she has missed the podium at a Winter Games.
She got Iris, a golden retriever puppy. Iris faithfully stayed at Clark’s side for endless hours of physical therapy.
In one of her first contests back last February, Clark won the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth, which is now her home mountain. It was the same day her New England Patriots won the Super Bowl with their own comeback.
Mastro, a 17-year-old from Southern California, could be called the most improved U.S. female halfpipe rider in the last year.
She finished seventh at X Games in 2016 and 2017, but then was third at the U.S. Open in March.
This season, she placed second, fourth and third at the first three Olympic qualifiers to move into position to clinch Saturday night.
U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings
Snowboard Halfpipe (through three of four events)
Three riders auto qualify per gender; one possible discretionary spot
1. Shaun White — 1,800* (QUALIFIED)
1. Ben Ferguson — 1,800* (QUALIFIED)
1. Jake Pates — 1,800* (QUALIFIED)
4. Chase Josey — 1,500* (1st and 4th)
5. Gabe Ferguson — 1,300* (2nd and 4th)
1. Chloe Kim — 2,000* (QUALIFIED)
2. Kelly Clark — 1,800* QUALIFIED
3. Maddie Mastro — 1,600* QUALIFIED
4. Arielle Gold — 1,100* (3rd and 4th)
5. Hannah Teter — 900 (5th and 5th)
*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result against whole field.
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