Extreme athletes like snowboard slalom champion Chris Klug brought a new look and a new rhythm to the Olympics with the introduction of (e)Xtreme sports at Nagano, Japan, in 1998. Without altering the Olympic ideals, the personas of the heroes of the Games were redefined. For Klug, who took the Olympic bronze in 2002, the win was an anticlimax to a life-saving surgery that preceded the Olympic competition by six months.
By the time he arrived at the competition in Salt Lake City, he was no stranger to victory, having scored and survived a liver transplant in July of 2002.
Born on November 18, 1972 in Vail, Colorado, the son of Kathy and Warren Klug, Chris Klug has an older brother, Jim, a younger sister, Hillary, and a foster brother, Jason. With the a backdrop of Vail in his early life it is easily understood how he evolved into an Olympic snowboarding medallist.
At age two, according to Klug, he toyed with his first downhill sport by taking to the slopes and learning to ski. The family relocated to Bend, Oregon, in 1976, where his father bought a hotel called the Inn of the Seventh Mountain, located at the foot of Mt. Bachelor. Bend, at the base of the Cascade Mountains is located at an altitude of 3,628 feet and is conducive to developing a proficiency in winter sports. Mt. Bachelor is a snow-board heaven, with many popular snowboard competitions and training grounds available in the region, so the move changed little for Klug and his love affair with winter sports.
Klug received his first snowboard at age eleven, and according to his own recollection he spent long hours building his skill on Mt. Bachelor. He entered amateur competitions at the junior level, and won the Mt. Baker Banked Slalom three times as a junior amateur. He won his first tour victory in 1988 as a sophomore in high school and went on to win back-to-back overall championships in the North West Race Series.
As Klug continued to grow, he attained an adult height of 6-feet-3-inches and a comfortable body weight of 210 pounds. An all-state quarterback at Mountain View high school, he faced a moment of truth when confronted by recruiters from Oregon State University—and other schools—with offers of football scholarships. Klug weighed his options and elected to forego college in favor of a career as a professional snowboarder. He entered competitions and won the overall National Amateur Championship Slalom in 1989. In 1991 he tied into the professional circuit, racing in over two dozen events as a rookie.
After undergoing bone surgery to his ankle in 1995, he missed the entire winter sport season that year. The surgery, to repair an errant bone beneath his Achilles tendon, was a precarious operation for an athlete. Hoping against the odds for a complete recovery, he remained active and attended classes at Aspen's Colorado Mountain College with an eye on a career in international snowboarding promotions. He applied and was accepted to Middlebury College in Vermont, but never acted on the acceptance. After winning the 1997 U.S. Open Slalom, he distinguished himself in 1998 as the first-ranked qualifier for the first-ever U.S. Olympic snow-boarding team headed for the winter games in Nagano.
The Business of Boarding
According to a report in the Patriot-News, the debut of Olympic snowboarding generated more than a tidbit of controversy sparked by antagonistic snowboarders who view their sport as (e)Xtreme, and above all, nonconformist. The potential confinement of these athletes, within the regulated agenda of Olympic competition, rankled many who sensed a threat to their own individuality. Others were outright compromised, and for some the notion of wearing Olympic uniforms incited ire.
Not all snowboarders were opposed, however. The inaugural event attracted teams from fifteen countries, totaling more than fifty athletes. "There's a fine line between selling out and buying in," the Patriot-News quoted half-pipe contender and Olympic proponent Todd Richards. Likewise Klug told J. Lieber in USA Today, "This is an exciting time for snowboarding. The Olympics … [will] put us all on the map." Klug, in fact, advertises "professional snowboarder" on his business card and totes a portable office in his backpack. He carries quantities of his resume, stat sheet, and press biography, all ready for distribution to media personnel and to agents at snowboard meets.
Klug arrived in Nagano as a frontrunner in the giant slalom competition. On the day of the event, a thick shroud of fog cloaked the venue at Mount Yakebitai. It was in fact, the debilitating fog that caused a ten-minute delay in the race and ultimately spelled disaster for Klug. At the outset of the second round mere seconds separated him from first place, and he tied for second with a time of 59.38. In the second round, with visibility impaired he narrowly missed taking a fall. After leading through the first half of the course, he let his arm catch a banner as he sped toward a 290-meter vertical drop that comprised the remainder of the run. The interference hampered his time, and he ended with a final combined time of 2:5:05 for a sixth-place finish, less than three seconds behind the gold medallist.
First Olympic Transplantee
Five years prior to the Nagano Olympics, in 1993 at age twenty, Klug had confronted an unnerving medical diagnosis when he was found ailing with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC). Doctors stabilized his condition with semi-annual liver treatments until 2000 when the treatments lost their effectiveness.
During the Grand Prix Overall Alpine Championships that year his strength waned. The following spring, he awoke one morning, feeling severe pain in his side, caused by a blockage in his bile ducts. The need for a transplant was then critical; Klug's health deteriorated. His weight dropped to 190 pounds, and he developed anemia, but met the challenge of a pending organ transplant with rare fortitude. He occupied himself with maintaining his fitness in order to minimize his recuperation time.
|1972||Born on November 18 in Vail, Colorado|
|1976||Moves with parents to Bend, Oregon|
|1991||Goes professional; participates in 25-30 events as a rookie; finishes in eighth place in first World Cup slalom event (Garmish, Germany)|
|1993||Receives a diagnosis of PSC|
|2000||Grand Prix Overall Alpine Champion; receives a new liver on July 28; returns to competition in November|
|2001||Wins first World Cup event after transplant|
Awards and Accomplishments
|Klug won back-to-back Northwest Series Overall Championships.|
|Klug is a three-time junior amateur Mt. Baker Banked Slalom Champion.|
|1988||Won Professional Snowboard Tour ($4,000)|
|1989||Slalom National Amateur Championship|
|1997||U.S. Open Slalom championship|
|1998||Named as the top pick on the first-ever U.S. Olympic snowboarding team|
|2000||Grand Prix Overall Alpine Champion|
|2001||U.S. National Champion|
|2002||Bronze medal, Winter Olympics|
A compatible organ became available on July 28, 2000, and Klug was admitted to the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver. There he underwent the exhaustive transplant surgery, which lasted more than six
hours. To the general amazement of all, he was out of bed and riding an exercise bike within two days of the surgery. He returned home in four days.
Barely seven weeks passed before Klug was preparing to re-board his board. In November he resumed competition, winning first place in a parallel slalom. He nailed a victory in a World Cup event by January of 2001.
February of 2002 brought the Winter Olympic Games to Salt Lake City and with it the second-ever Olympic snowboarding competition in history. For the giant slalom event at Park City Mountain Resort, Klug qualified as number eleven of sixteen competitors. In snowboarding's giant slalom, boarders compete in pairs, making timed runs on parallel courses. The competitors switch courses for a second run, and their time on the second run is added to their time from the first run, to calculate a combined final score. Klug made successful runs and advanced into the semifinals where he lost to Swiss boarder Philipp Schoch in the wake of a disappointing crash. The crash carried a steep penalty that day of 1.78 seconds, based on the trial times of the athletes. In the end Schoch took it all—winning the gold for Switzerland.
Although he crashed out of the finals, Klug was encouraged, knowing that a medal remained within his grasp. With gold and silver out of reach, he faced a pair of runs versus Nicolas Huet of France in a race for the bronze medal. In the first run Klug bested Huet but took little time to gloat when confronted by a potentially disastrous-setback of a broken boot buckle. He jury-rigged a temporary fastener with duct tape, hoped for the best, and went into the final run with a 0.15 second advantage. Klug ended the run with a plump margin of 1.2 seconds, to win the bronze decisively, with a total margin of 1.36.
Klug returned to Aspen a hero, and the city threw a parade in his honor, despite frigid temperatures. The victory was celebrated nationwide; Klug was invited—and accepted the invitation—to the New York Stock Exchange, to ring the opening bell. Similarly the Detroit Tigers invited Klug to throw out the first pitch at a game. At the Transplant Games in Orlando, Florida, Klug was given the honor of lighting the torch. Television talk shows, and morning news shows hosted Klug and encouraged him to share his story with the viewing public.
Klug remained unmarried in 2003. He splits his time between a residence in Sisters, Oregon, and a family home in Aspen. Fly-fishing, golf, mountain biking, and water skiing fill his time when he is not snowboarding. In 2001 he established the Burton/Klug snowboard camp for youth at Aspen, where attendance tripled to 100 during the second season of operation.
Related Biography: Engineer Charles Poppen
According to most accounts, Charles Poppen fabricated the prototype of the first commercially manufactured snowboard in 1965. His immediate goal was to make a toy for his daughter, but in 1966 he obtained a patent for his invention. It is not likely that Poppen, a chemical gases engineer living in Muskegon, Michigan, envisioned an Olympic sport as he lashed two skis together into a wider plane, similar to a surfboard.
Poppen called his invention a Snurfer and licensed it to Brunswick Corporation for mass production and sales to retail outlets. Dimitrije Milovich founded Winterstick, the first company established exclusively for the production of snowboards, in 1969. By 1970 Snurfer fans were engaging each other in annual contests.
Although Poppen's Snurfer attracted the most attention, reports of snowboard designers date back as early as 1929, to an experimental apparatus built by M. J. Jack Burchett. A Tom Sims model, on display at the Colorado Snowboard and Ski Museum in Vail Colorado, pre-dates Poppen's first attempt by two years.
The sleek, modern surfboard-like designs of third millennium snow-boards were pioneered by Jake Burton Carpenter and Chuck Barfoot individually in the late 1970s.
Klug's interest in snowboarding was aroused at age eleven, when manufactured snowboards were relatively new on the market. With nowhere to turn for advice, his early technique on the board was largely self-taught. Before winning the North American Junior Championship in 1987 he turned to a Bend area ski instructor, Bob Roy, for guidance. Roy accepted the challenge, however skeptically, and went on to head an international team. It is said that Sherman Poppen invented the snowboard, but if the sport had its pioneers, then Klug's name must appear on the list. The first-ever athlete named to the U.S. Olympic team on snowboard, he was also the first athlete ever to win an Olympic medal after undergoing transplant surgery.
People (December 3, 2001): 141.
Sports Illustrated (February 4, 2002: 148; February 14, 2002: 10).
Sunday Patriot-News (February 8, 1998): A1.
USA Today (February 3, 1998): 6C; February 15, 2002, p. 10D; February 16, 2002 (bonus section).
Sketch by G. Cooksey
American snowboarder Kelly Clark "had such an awesome run," on February 10, 2002, her Olympic teammate Shannon Dunn-Downing told the Washington Post. "She just kept going big. She did a super-nice McTwist … at the end, she just busted out a seven." Translation: Clark won the gold medal in the women's halfpipe competition in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. And she did so by soaring higher, and landing more inverted tricks than most of her fellow competitors. Clark's medal was the first American gold in snowboarding, and also the first gold of the 2002 Olympics.
Clark was born July 26, 1983 in Newport, Rhode Island. Her family moved to Mount Snow, Vermont, and her parents, Terry and Cathy Clark, own a tavern in nearby West Dover, Vermont called T.C.'s Family Restaurant. She was a ski racer until the third grade, when she got bored of skiing and tried snowboarding, which had just been allowed at her home mountain. Her parents tried to convince her to stick with skiing, that snowboarding was just a fad. Clark began competing in local contests at age thirteen. In ninth grade, she enrolled in the ski academy at Mount Snow, where students divide their time between academics and ski or snowboarding training. She started training with the
U.S. Snowboard Team in 2000. Clark graduated high school in 2001 and was accepted at the University of Rhode Island, but deferred her first year of college to concentrate on her snowboarding. She moved to Mammoth, California to train for the Olympics.
When Clark was in ninth grade, and snowboarding debuted as an Olympic sport in 1998 in Nagano, Japan, not a single woman did what is called an "inverted air," which is a somersault in the air after coming off the wall of the halfpipe. In 2002, many women attempted them, but few landed them as confidently as Clark did. She said fear was her biggest obstacle when she first starting attempting the high-flying tricks. "Once you break through that level of fear, and feel comfortable with yourself, you can push yourself to the limit," she told the Washington Post.
Clark entered the U.S. Championships in 1999 and finished third in the snowboardcross event and fourth in the halfpipe. In 2000, she won the World Junior Championships, took second at the Goodwill Games, and took a first in snowboardcross and fourth in halfpipe at the U.S. Championships. In 2001, she swept both events at the U.S. Championships as well as the prestigious U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix. In addition to her halfpipe gold at the Olympics, Clark took first place at the X Games and U.S. Championships before the year 2002 was through. Though she is a competent snowboard-cross rider, Clark gave it up to focus on halfpipe because snowboardcross riders tend to be more prone to injuries. Even though she was a success on the competition circuit, and the prize money was good for her bank account, Clark could just as soon do without competing. "I don't think snowboarding needs contests," she told WWD, "but they are fun to participate in."
Clark went into the Olympics with a hairline fracture in her right wrist and pain in her back from a crash in practice only days before the competition. Doctors were consulted, X-rays were taken. "When I was lying … in bed that night, I was thinking, 'Ohhh, what am I going to do?'" she recalled in the New York Times. Clark probably knew that she was going to do what she traveled to Salt Lake City to do: compete in her sport.
"The most impressive thing about her is her incredible attitude," Jake Burton, of the Burton snowboard company, told WWD. "Obviously, she's got the skills, but mentally she's unflappable. Nerves are a big part of this, as much as they are for figure skating and golf." In addition to nerve, she is known for being aggressive in the halfpipe, but, off the course, "she is calm and soft-spoken, eschewing the rebel image of snowboarders," Edward Wong noted in the New York Times. "She could very well be the fresh-scrubbed Generation Y champion that Olympic officials hope will draw younger fans."
Clark competes wearing her mini-disc headphones and listening to music to drown out distraction. As she hit the wall and sailed upwards of eight to nine feet in the air on her Olympic halfpipe runs, though, even loud music by the rock group Blink 182 could not compete with the roaring crowd. "They were so amazing," she said of the cheering fans in Teen People. "I've never heard anything like it." And her competitors—most of whom reach heights of five to six feet in the air—had never seen anything like Clark. "I try to have as much personal style as I can to make the most twists and stand out for the judges," she told WWD.
France's Doriane Vidal was in the lead when Clark prepared to make her third and final run in the 426-foot halfpipe on February 10, 2002. Her final Olympic half-pipe competition lasted less than two minutes, but she managed to pack in seven tricks, including a McTwist with an indy grab and a front side 720. That is, an inverted aerial trick where the rider does a 540-degree rotational flip, followed by a 720-degree spin.
|1983||Born July 26 in Newport, Rhode Island|
|1996||Begins competing in local snowboarding contests|
|2000||Begins training with the U.S. Snowboarding Team|
|2001||Graduates high school|
|2002||Wins first American gold at Salt Lake City Olympics|
Awards and Accomplishments
|1999||Third place in snowboardcross, U.S. Championships|
|1999-2000||Fourth place in halfpipe, U.S. Snowboarding Championships|
|2000||First place in halfpipe, World Junior Championships|
|2000||Second place, Goodwill Games|
|2000-01||First place in snowboardcross, U.S. Snowboarding Championships|
|2001||Nineteenth place in halfpipe, World Championships|
|2001||First place, U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix|
|2001-02||First place in halfpipe, U.S. Snowboarding Championships|
|2002||First place in halfpipe, Salt Lake City Olympics|
|2002||First place in halfpipe, X Games|
|2002||Fourth place, U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix|
Clark's personal style impressed the five competition judges enough to earn her a gold medal—the first for an American in the 2002 Games—in the halfpipe competition. The judges gave her 47.9 out of 50 points, with the French judge turning in a perfect ten. During the awards ceremony, she pulled silver and bronze-medal winners Vidal and Fabienne Reuteler from Switzerland up to share her top spot on the podium after the playing of "The Star Spangled Banner." "It's unbelievable," Clark told the Washington Post after her win. "I've never had a feeling like that in my life. It was so overwhelming, and so rewarding at the same time. It means a lot to me, and all the rest of America."
Anstey, Gabby. "Kelly Clark's new tricks." Sports Illustrated Women. (December 2002-January 2003): 27.
Burris, Joe. "Smokin' pipe Vermonter Clark gets first U.S. gold." Boston Globe. (February 11, 2002): D1.
Chamberlain, Tony. "Clark gets on board." Boston Globe. (March 26, 2001): D7.
Chamberlain, Tony. "Kass, Clark stars of the halfpipe." Boston Globe. (March 17, 2002): D3.
Feitelberg, Rosemary. "Kelly Clark: Gnarly and nice." WWD. (February 13, 2002): 4.
Howard, Caroline. "Person of the month: Kelly Clark." Teen People. (May 2002): 117.
Oberjuerge, Paul. "Women's halfpipe: It's gold for a teen; snowboarder Clark gets first top medal for U.S." Daily News (Los Angeles, CA). (February 11, 2002): S12.
Ruibal, Sal. "For U.S. star Clark, the future is now." USA Today. (February 11, 2002): D4.
Shipley, Amy. "A golden moment: Snowboarder is first American to win at Games." Washington Post. (February 11, 2002): A1.
Wong, Edward. "Clark starts with pain and ends up with gold." New York Times. (February 11, 2002): D1.
"Athlete profile: Kelly Clark." U.S. Olympic Team homepage. http://www.usolympicteam.com/athlete_profils/k_clark.html (January 15, 2003).
"Kelly Clark." EXPN.com. http://expn.go.com/athletes/bios/CLARK_KELLY.html (January 15, 2003).
Sketch by Brenna Sanchez
One of the most decorated snowboarders in the history of the sport, Kevin Jones has medaled in all but three of the X Games events he's ever entered, settling for fourth place in big air competition at the Summer X Games of 1999, fifth place in big air at the Winter X Games of 2001, and fourth in slopestyle at the 2002 Winter X Games. An avid skateboarder as a boy, he decided to give snowboarding a try after seeing a film in which ace skateboarders Noah Salaznek and John Cardiel showed their stuff on the snow. He competes in an average of only three contests each year—usually the Winter X Games, the Sims World Championships, and one Vans Triple Crown of Snowboarding event. A resident of Truckee, California, not far from Lake Tahoe,
Jones most often boards at Squaw Valley. Of himself and other pioneers in snowboarding, Jones says: "We didn't start snowboarding for the money, but now it's turned into the hunt for the almighty dollar. I think snowboarding should be called 'Jock Boarding'."
Born in Sacramento, California
He was born Kevin Christopher Jones in Sacramento, California, on January 23, 1975. As a boy he took up skateboarding and in his late teens became intrigued by snowboarding after seeing popular skateboarders John Cardiel and Noah Salaznek snowboarding in the film Riders on the Storm. Jones was seventeen when he first began snowboarding and a year later he entered his first competition. Almost from the start, he showed unusual talent for the sport, quickly developing into one of the young sport's emerging stars. To stay close to the slopes, he moved a hundred or so miles east of Sacramento to Truckee, not far from Squaw Valley where he began training.
Throughout the history of the X Games, which were launched in 1995 by the ESPN cable TV network, Jones has been a dominant force in the snowboard events, which consist of two main forms of competition—big air and slopestyle. Slopestyle events are judged competitions in which one rider at a time goes through a series of jumps and other obstacles, performing tricks along the way. In big air competition, boarders perform tricks, including flips and multiple rotations, while airborne. In the Summer X Games of 1997, Jones took the silver medal in big air competition. At the 1998 Winter X Games he won silver in slopestyle and bronze in big air. Jones got the gold medal in big air competition at the Summer X Games of 1998.
In 1999, Jones took silver and bronze medals in slope-style and big air, respectively, at the Winter X Games. In big air competition at the Summer X Games of 1999, Jones failed to medal, finishing in fourth place. He really performed brilliantly in slopestyle at the Winter X Games of both 2000 and 2001, taking home the gold medal in the event both years. In slopestyle, he went bronze at the 2000 Winter X Games and placed fifth at the 2001 event. For his impressive performance in 2001, Jones was named Best Freestyle Rider of the Year in the annual Transworld Rider's Poll, an honor that he again received the following year. At the Winter X Games of 2002, there was no big air competition, but Jones finished fourth in the slopestyle event. Jones has been linked romantically with gold medal-winning female boarder Tara Dakides.
Takes Care of Business
Not only is Jones one of the country's premier snow-boarders, but he's a businessman as well. A co-owner (with Tara Dakides) of Jeenyus, a manufacturer of competition-class snowboard and other boarding gear, including boots, Jones also gets corporate support from Billabong, Go Ped, and Mountain Surf, all of which sponsor him in competition. Late in 2001 he signed an endorsement deal with Von Zipper, a big player in the sports eyewear market.
|1975||Born January 23 in Sacramento, California|
|1993||Enters first snowboarding competition|
|2001||Signs endorsement deal with Von Zipper eyewear|
Awards and Accomplishments
|1997||Silver medal in big air competition at Summer X Games|
|1998||Silver in slopestyle and bronze in big air at Winter X Games|
|1998||Gold medal in big air competition at Summer X Games|
|1999||Silver medal in slopestyle and bronze in big air at Winter X Games|
|1999||Placed fourth in big air competition at Summer X Games|
|2000||Gold medal in slopestyle and bronze in big air at Winter X Games|
|2001||Gold medal in slopestyle and placed fifth in big air at Winter X Games|
|2001||Named Best Freestyle Rider in Trans World Rider's Poll Awards|
|2002||Placed fourth in slopestyle at Winter X Games|
In addition to his competition stateside, Jones travels extensively around the globe, filming snowboarding action documentaries. In an interview with Dave Sypniewski of Trans World SNOWboarding, Jones explained his fascination with film. "I like to film because I liked watching them when I was a tadpole. I would watch them over and over 'til they wouldn't work anymore." Film companies for which Jones has filmed include Standard Films, FLF, and Mack Dawg.
Jones is likely to continue to be a major player in professional snowboarding competition for some time to come. Between competition, his filming schedule, and tending to his business, he has little time for non-snowboarding activities, but when he can grab an hour or two, he loves to go fly fishing. In July 2002, he participated in the Great Outdoor Games Fly Fishing Tournament at Lake Placid, New York. Asked how he thought he'd do in the fishing competition, Jones told an interviewer, "I enjoy fly fishing, and I think it's great that I get to experience something that puts me outside of my element. I'm not expecting to win or anything; these guys are heavy hitters."
Address: Kevin Jones, c/o Jeenyus Snowboards, Truckee, CA.
"Snowboard Warrior Kevin Jones Joins Von Zipper Tribe." Trans World Snow Boarding (December 13, 2001).
Sypniewski, Dave. "Kevin Jones Interview: The Golden Boy." Trans World Snow Boarding (August 30, 2000).
"Jones and Dakides Sweep Rider's Poll Awards Again." EXPN.com. http://expn.go.com/snb/s/riderspoll2002.html (February 2, 2003).
"Kevin Jones." Snowlodge. http://www.angelfire.com/ab4/snowlodge/kevin.html (February 1, 2003).
"Kevin Jones." EXPN.com. http://expn.go.com/athletes/bios/JONES_KEVIN.html (February 1, 2003).
"Kevin Jones." Kevin Jones Fan Site. http://www.geocities.com/chung_girl/kevinjones.html (February 1, 2003).
"Kevin Jones." Trans World Snow Boarding. http://www.transworldsnowboarding.com/snow/features/article/0,13009,246375,00.html (February 1, 2003).
"Kevin Jones to Compete at Great Outdoor Games." EXPN.com. http://expn.go.com/snb/s/kjflyfsh.html (February 1, 2003).
Sketch by Don Amerman