World No 1 women's snowboarder Kelly Clark was looking forward to feeling the sand between her toes after dominating the Cardrona snow during yesterday's World Cup halfpipe event on the penultimate day of the 2013 Winter Games.
The two-time Olympic medallist overcame a fall in her first round to take gold with a commanding performance in her second and final round of the final.
"My first run, I came out and did a frontside air, a backside five and then I fell on my frontside 1080. My second run was a do-or-die situation. I had to land it," Clark said.
"I could have been conservative but I chose to go for it because it's always a great opportunity to overcome a first-run fall. If that happens in some of the big events next year I'm going to have to know how to do it. I came out and did frontside air, backside five, frontside 1080, cab 720 and stalefish."
And nailed it, showing no signs of fear, despite her precarious position in the competition.
"You've got to look at [a fall] as an opportunity. The second you start feeling threatened by it, you aren't going to be performing at your best. You have to get the big-picture perspective."
The 30-year-old, who won Winter Olympic gold in the halfpipe at Salt Lake City in 2002 and bronze in Vancouver in 2010, will head to Fiji for the first time after these Winter Games.
It will be a rare offseason beach trip for Clark, who has been a member of the US snowboarding team since 2000.
From the end of May to the start of November, the US boarders spend only about two months on the snow, splitting their time between Mt Hood in Oregon, and New Zealand.
Clark has been to all three editions of New Zealand's Winter Games and appreciates the offseason conditions.
"We spent a few weeks at Mt Hood, Oregon, but it's on the glacier, it's slushy, it's not realistic. This is winter, it's firm, icy halfpipe, conducive to snowboarding and what our ‘normal' is. It's a great opportunity to come here and get back into it," she said.
"It's great, the start of our new points season for World Cup points, and it's just kind of nice to dust off the old competition legs and mind. To come out after such a long break for us and to be able to get back into competition mode, it sets us up well for the North American winter."
Clark's second-round score 89.5 was comfortably ahead of runner-up Xuetong Cai, of China (85.5) and third-placed US boarder Gretchen Bleiler (85.25), who led after the first round.
New Zealand's Bex Sinclair performed well in the earlier semifinals, finishing sixth from 10 and earning valuable qualification points for next February's Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, even though she just missed out on a place in the final.
Japan dominated the men's competition, with three representatives in the top four placings. Ayumu Hirano (92.25) won from compatriot Taku Hiraoka (91.75), with Switzerland's Christian Haller third (82.5).
The Winter Games finish today with the third round of the cyclocross national series in Queenstown, the FIS World Cup freestyle ski slopestyle finals at Cardrona from 10am and the closing ceremony in Wanaka from 2pm.
Winter Games chief executive Arthur Klap was pleased with the way things had panned out, with only one event cancelled due to weather during the 11-day programme.
- © Fairfax NZ News