Faith made snowboarding ‘more free’
Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press
February 18, 2010

Faith made snowboarding ‘more free’

Faith made snowboarding ‘more free’
Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press
February 18, 2010

VANCOUVER — Kelly Clark

wasn’t about to sit back and let her life fall to pieces. The Olympic athlete

should have been excited with the direction her life was taking, but she wasn’t.

So one night, she walked up to a fellow snowboarder’s hotel room and knocked on

the door.

“My name’s Kelly,” Clark announced. “I think you might be a Christian, and I

think you need to tell me about God.”

That was the start of a five-month journey in 2004 that led Clark, a 2002

Olympic gold medal winner and member of the 2010 U.S. Olympic snowboarding team

in Vancouver, from despair and hopelessness to faith and freedom.

“I thought being a Christian was going to church and following rules and all

sorts of religious things,” Clark said. “But it’s about having a relationship

with Jesus.”

Clark will compete in the women’s halfpipe Feb. 18.

Photo by Katie Perhai

Kelly Clark

Growing up in the mountain town of Mt. Snow, Vt., snowboarding became Clark’s

passion early in life. At age 18, she was competing in her first Olympics in

Salt Lake City in the women’s halfpipe, garnering the gold medal.

In addition to the Olympics, Clark won championships in the U.S. Open and X

Games as well.

“I had every successful thing going for me,” Clark said. “I’d won every major

snowboard event you could ever dream about winning. I thought that when you are

successful, you’re happy. From an outside perspective I was living the dream. I

had all the success and all the things you could ever dream about. But I found

that it wasn’t very fulfilling.”

During a competition in 2004, Clark sat in her hotel room writing in her

journal. If this is what life is, she wrote, if this was everything it had to

offer, she didn’t want to do it anymore. She didn’t care if she woke up the

next day, and didn’t think anyone else cared.

That’s when an encounter at the competition changed her life. Clark qualified

for the finals as she typically did. But when a fellow competitor failed to

qualify, Clark overheard a conversation when a friend reassuringly, almost in a

joking manner, said, “Hey, it’s all right. God still loves you.”

That statement, made innocuously, had an impact on Clark and began stirring

something in her that she couldn’t deny. She went back to her hotel room and

opened up the Bible placed there by the Gideons. She started reading but didn’t

know where to start and wasn’t sure what she was reading. That’s when she

walked down the hall and knocked on her competitor’s door.

After that encounter, Clark spent the next several weeks thinking about the

Lord and investigating the claims of Jesus Christ. She eventually concluded

that God was indeed there, that He loved her and that He was already active in

her life, and she became a follower of Christ, leaving behind the drudgery she

had felt in recent years.

“I was getting my self-worth from what I did, and my identity was really

wrapped up in snowboarding and the success that it brought me,” Clark said.

But after becoming a Christian, she began learning that she didn’t have to do

anything for God to love her or for her life to have purpose.

“It ended up freeing up my snowboarding more so than ever,” she Clark. “I was

no longer going from event to event to feel good about myself. I had that apart

from what I did. And so my snowboarding has been dramatically impacted. My

snowboarding got a lot more free.

“Now I’m able to really enjoy it again.”

(EDITOR’ S NOTE — Ellsworth, in addition to his role as BPSports editor, is

director of news and media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)