X Games: Kelly Clark claims a Hat-Trick in Tignes

American Halfpipe specialist Kelly Clark wins Superpipe Gold ahead of Elena Hight and Arielle Gold.
By Giacomo Margutti

On Wednesday night, despite a heavy snowstorm in Tignes, France, Kelly Clark won her third consecutive X Games gold (in Tignes) in the Women's SuperPipe, following up on her third consecutive X Games gold (in Aspen) in January. Kelly has now reached the incredible record of 62 career pipe wins. The American also recently won the 6Star Burton U.S. Open in Vail Colorado, claiming her 3rd World Snowboard Tour title there. After the first 6Star event on the 2013-2014 World Snowboard Tour calendar, she commented:

Tonight was a challenging night, in the midst of the snowstorm. It's always good to come out and land your first run because, potentially, it just keeps snowing and it gets slower and more difficult. It's never easy. There are always challenges. I've historically been very poor in riding in snow conditions. My mechanics are really slow. So for me to try to do a trick as big as I normally do it is a nightmare. I was hoping to dig deeper into my bag of tricks tonight, but conditions didn't permit it.

Heavy snow and high winds during the final prevented her from trying the Cab 1080 and other new tricks she has been working on, but her Run 1 score of 87.66 was enough to win. She started her run off with a Frontside 1080 indy, that has become her signature. Clark followed it up with a Cab 720 mute, a Frontside indy, a Backside 540 mute to wrap her run up with a Frontside 540. A score of 87.66 points was enough to hold off Elena Hight and Arielle Gold for a repeat of Aspen's podium.

She said she looked at the rough weather as a chance to get better:

Take a big picture perspective. What if it's dumping next year in Sochi? To put down a good run in a snowstorm, move forward and gain experience and confidence in that. It's the little victories. I look at the things that I gained as a competitor as a snowboarder and those are the things I reflect on and appreciate at the end of the day.

That comment reminds me about the answer she gave me in Sochi a month ago, where she won the World Cup stop as the Olympic qualifier and thus test event. The halfpipe wasn't in great shape, because of the uncommon high temperatures during those days, there were some holes and bumps into it; still, Kelly told me kind of the same answer: "It's not so unlikely that we will have to compete under the same weather conditions next year. It's mother nature and we have to accept it. It's good that I won under these circumstances so I'm ready to go for it again if it happens one more time next year at Sochi 2014."

Elena Hight couldn't find the speed to try the Backside Alley Oop double Rodeo that won her silver in Aspen and put her in the history books as the first to land a double cork in women's pipe competition, but she edged into second place in her third and final run (a Method Air to a Frontside 720 to a Cab 720 to a Frontside 900 and a Backside 900 on her last hit) with a score of 85, bumping Arielle Gold to third. Elena commented on her run:

It's a bummer when weather comes in and messes with our perfect pipe, but that's a part of snow sports. The halfpipe was awesome. The wind was a factor, but it wasn't at the point where it was dangerous. I didn't do the run I wanted to do but with conditions like this to be able to land a run clean. I did a Frontside 900, which I haven't done all season, so that feels really good. I'm happy to end the season on a good note.

Arielle Gold won bronze with an 83, and was only her second X Games appearance; she recently won a bronze at the 6Star X Games Aspen earlier this year when competing as an alternate. Her Tignes run this evening consisted of a Method Air to a Frontside 540 melon, to a Backside 540 mute, to a Frontside 720 Stalefish and a Backside 720. Arielle said after her bronze medal:

The conditions made the halfpipe really slow, which is what we need to do better and bigger tricks. But I think under the circumstances it was still a good contest. I'm sure we would have all appreciated better conditions, but the powder riding tomorrow is going to be great. I'm really looking forward to that. I think we all are.

1. Kelly CLARK (USA) 87.66
2. Elena HIGHT (USA) 85.00
3. Arielle GOLD (USA) 83.00
4. Hannah TETER (USA)
5. Gretchen BLEILER (USA)
6. Maddy Schaffrick (USA)
7. Kaitlyn Farrington (USA)

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