“Clarky” back after staph infection; finishes fifth in Aspen super GAfter two years spent recovering form injuries, Kirsten Clark is almost back where she wants to be: the podium.
‘I’m always thinking about getting back on the podium’ she said.
‘Clarky’ as she is affectionately called by her teammates, took fifth in Friday’s super G in Aspen, Colorado an impressive follow-up to her seventh-place finish in last weekend’s super G in Lake Louise, Alberta.
Though she didn’t quite achieve her podium dreams, the 27-year-old Raymond, Maine, native said she was happy with the finish.
‘I’m excited with how I skied’ Clark said. ‘From the course inspection, I knew what I wanted to do with this race. But to go out and do it, that’s great that’s great for confidence.’
Clark, the most veteran member of the women’s squad, can probably use a little confidence as she looks to recover from two years of injuries and setbacks while shooting for her third Olympic Games.
After finishing 12th in the 2002 Olympic downhill and taking home a super G silver medal from the 2003 World Championships in St. Mortiz, Switzerland, Clark looked to be one of the top American speed skiers entering the 2004 season.
But in January 2004, she cartwheeled off-course and suffered multiple injuries, including a torn left ACL, in a crash in Haus, Austria. Her season was over. She worked hard and rebounded last season her best finish was eighth place in the downhill in Cortina, Italy but again found disappointment when sickness cost her a start in the 2005 World Championships downhill in Bormio, Italy.
Clark finally appeared to have her ducks in a row as the 2006 season approached, but was dealt another setback in September when a routine scope to clean out her surgically repaired left knee developed a staph infection. Instead of training for the October World Cup opener in Soelden, Austria, Clark found herself on crutches and taking antibiotics to save her leg.
Clark’s first day back on snow was Nov. 12. Less than a month later, she was able to test her knee in the downhill and super G at Lake Louise. In Aspen, she said she her knee is almost completely recovered.
“My knee is doing fine,” she said. “It’s not 100 percent, but when I’m racing I don’t feel it. I’d say on course it’s 100 percent. I’m able to charge and trust it there’s no instability, so it’s great.”
With two top-10 finishes under her belt so far this year, it was easy for Clark to find the positives as she reflected on the trials and tribulations of the last two years.
‘I’m two years older and wiser’ she said. ‘I have more experience. I had never gone through injuries before. But the last two years, I’ve been fighting back and I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned what I can do even though I’m not 100 percent and I’ve learned to trust myself, my ability and the hard work I put into it.’
U.S. Ski Team head women’s coach Patrick Riml said he was, of course, glad to have Clark back and especially pleased with her super G performance in Aspen.
‘Clark looked great out there’ he said. ‘She skied very aggressively, which is how she needs to be approaching races.’
Riml wasn’t the only person glad to see Clark do well. Lindsey Kildow, who finished in seventh place in the super G, said Clark’s comeback is a long time coming.
‘I’m psyched for Clarky’ Kildow said. ‘She’s skiing really well. I’m psyched to see that she’s coming back strong from that staph infection it really put her back a ways.”