Clark wins first Olympic qualifier
Kelly Clark opened the 2014 Olympic Winter Games qualifying period for snowboarding with victory at the FIS World Cup halfpipe Sunday in Cardrona, New Zealand.
Clark, who took double gold at the 2012 X Games, has won a staggering 19 of her last 20 contests. The New Zealand halfpipe marks the first event of the Olympic qualifying period that lasts for the next 17 months. The Olympic gold medalist fell in her opening run, but stomped a winning run of 83 points for a 2.25 point margin of victory.
U.S. Snowboarding riders placed three men and three women in the top 15. Hannah Teter took fourth, with Matt Ladley as the top American male, also in fourth. Scotty Lago was sixth, Kaitlyn Farrington took eighth and Benji Farrow took 14th.
"With my win and Hannah's good finish, this is a great start to the season for the U.S.," Clark said. "Falling in the first run is never ideal but I tried to look at it as an opportunity. That's exactly what can happen in major events. So it's good to get used to it and this kind of pressure."
The 17-month qualifying period provides individual athletes with opportunity to achieve required international ranking to be eligible for Olympic selection and helps the USA earn nation's quota spots.
Clark secured her 10th World Cup podium out of 12 starts and her 19th victory of her last 20 elite competitions. Her winning run included a frontside 720 indy, cab 720 mute-grab, frontside air, backside 540 mute-grab, to frontside 540 Japan-grab.
France’s Sophie Rodriguez was second behind Clark and Spain’s Queralt Castellet came in third. Japan swept the men's podium with Ryo Aono in first followed by Shuuhei Sato and Yiwei Zhang.