Dominant is winning your last 16 events in a row.
It's entering 112 competitions since 2001 and winning nearly half of them. It's a sovereign hold on a sport unlike any in recent history. More so than Roger Federer. More dominant than Tiger Woods ever was.
This weekend Kelly Clark is in Stratton, Vt. at the Burton U.S. Open. It's like her home course since she grew up less than a half hour away. She used to come as a spectator and has been competing as a top snowboarder for the past 15 years. At the halfpipe finals on Saturday, Clark will be going for her 17th consecutive victory.
She hasn't lost an event she's entered since 2010.
And after a decade of dominance, she's getting better.
"I never expected to be 28 and having my best season ever and being on this win streak like I'm on," she says.
Clark is the most decorated women's snowboarder in history, most known for her performance at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City where she became America' first gold medalist in the sport. Unbelievably, she could have two more gold medals in her trophy case if it weren't for her go-for-broke style.
In 2006 at Torino, Clark was in first and a lock for gold, but went all out on her final run when she didn't have to. She attempted two difficult tricks that she had landed in practice, but not in competition. Clark missed the landing and missed out on a medal altogether. The Olympics in Vancouver two years ago ended similarly. In solid first place, Clark didn't need a flashy final run, but went for it anyway. She attempted to become the first woman to land a 1080 in competition. Instead, she landed bronze.
Clark will tell you though, that this wasn't history repeating itself. She'd make the same decision again and again given the opportunity. Safe is not part of her personality.
"I think I would regret more if I was holding back and knew I had more to give," Clark says. "I would be later in life somewhere wondering."
Nearing 30, where most professional athletes begin to drop off, Clark is still reinventing a sport she helped bring to global prominence. Still, in a sport as physically demanding as snowboarding, it's fair to wonder how much longer she can keep going big.
"I'm having more fun than ever and I'm continuing to learn new things and I'm healthy," Clark says. "If some of those things start to slip off, then I'll reconsider, but right now it's full steam ahead."
Full steam ahead to Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Olympics. That's Clark's next goal. She is working on some new tricks and, despite her recent performance, believes there are areas of her riding she can improve upon. She wants gold again, but won't coast to it. Clark wants to win her
"I've never really snowboarded for outside approval. I've snowboarded because I love it. And I've snowboarded because there's an opportunity to take a sport where it's never been before," she says. "That's really what inspires me."
Go big. And hopefully go home with gold. Again.
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