Kelly Clark refers to it as "the fall heard around the world."
Entering the 2006 Winter Olympics, Clark was the odds-on favorite to repeat as gold medalist in the snowboarding halfpipe event. But even though a nasty spill erased that dream, a decision to accept Christ two years earlier provided a much softer landing. "If I hadn't had that shift in my life, I think my world would have come crumbling down," Clark says.
Prior to 2004, Clark's life was consumed by snowboarding. Her world-class journey started as a 7-year-old at Vermont's Mount Snow ski resort and has resulted in a globetrotting career chock-full of jaw-dropping medal performances.
"I thought that being successful and achieving my goals would go hand-in-hand with being happy," Clark says. "But by the time I was 18 years old, I had achieved everything that was in my heart to do and at the same time I wasn't finding fulfillment."
On the verge of quitting her dream job, Clark randomly approached a Christian woman who was staying in the same hotel. After overhearing the phrase, "God still loves you," she couldn't ignore an undeniable "stirring" within her spirit. And now, Clark taps into the kind of creativity that only comes from the Creator Himself.
"There's no place where you can get freedom apart from Him," Clark says. "I've brought that freedom into my snowboarding. It really does set me apart from a lot of the athletes. I get to do what I love with the One that I love. There's no better way to do it than with that kind of freedom."
CHAD HEDRICK (USA) SPEED SKATING
When you watch the Winter Olympics this year, you might see someone who resembles mega speed skating star Chad Hedrick. You know, the brash American who won gold in his first Olympic race (5,000 meter) then went on to claim silver in the 10,000-meter and bronze in the 1,500-meter races?
Perhaps you remember Hedrick as the wild party animal who boldly predicted he would match Eric Heiden's record five gold medals from 1984. Maybe it was the public feud with fellow American Shani Davis, whom Hedrick called out for not competing in a team event. Yes, you might see a guy who looks a lot like Chad Hedrick, but it's not him. Well, at least not anymore.
"I was this major, fierce competitor that hated to lose," Hedrick recalls. "I used to want to throw my skates when I lost. I was trying to show everybody that I was the best in the world. If there was a guy competing against me, I wanted him to be scared of me. I wanted to intimidate him."
For Hedrick, that formula was, quite honestly, pretty successful. He set three American records and half a dozen world records. But it was his marriage to wife Lynsey and her Christian influence that helped him realize he was missing an important piece of the equation.
"I'd never really acknowledged the Lord and never appreciated what He's given me," Hedrick says. "But He continued to bless me on a daily basis. Even though I didn't show Him any love at all, He gave me something special. Now I want to bring glory to His name. I want to be a positive role model and hopefully open people's eyes to the good life."
Follow Chad Hedrick's journey to the 2010 Winter Olympics at twitter.com/chadhedrick.
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