PORTLAND, Maine March 20, 2007 (USST Release)—Kirsten Clark (Raymond, ME), who went from junior national champion to three Olympics, a World Championship silver medal, a World Cup win and seven U.S. titles - including the only American to win four straight U.S. gold medals in downhill, announced her retirement Monday after 13 years on the U.S. Ski Team.
TD Banknorth, her sponsor for 11 years, honored her by presenting a check for $100,000 to Carrabassett Valley Academy for her work on behalf of CVA, where she graduated in 1995, and what William J. Ryan, the bank's retiring chairman, cited as "her sincerity, her honesty, her willingness to get involved and, really, her commitment to help out young people."
In turn, she presented Ryan with an autographed and framed bib from Lenzerheide, Switzerland, where she won a World Cup downhill in 2001 and took her last World Cup run a week ago during World Cup Finals.
"Thirteen years is a long time, my body and my mind are telling. It's been an incredible journey," Clark, who also competed in six World Championships, told a press conference at TD Banknorth headquarters.
"It's amazing to think it all started out when I was chasing my older brother (Sean, a former star racer at Bates College and juniors coach at the Jackson Hole Ski Club in Wyoming) down the slopes of Sugarloaf Mountain, and then from there attending Carrabassett Valley Academy.
"Without CVA I wouldn't have been able to achieve my dreams of becoming the best," she said. Clark, 29, who is married to former U.S. coach and World Cup downhiller Andreas Rickenbach, said she had no immediate plans but wants to continue her conditioning camps for youngsters 10-14 at CVA, a weekend program, which will be in its fourth year this summer. She also said she might coach at some point, but only on a parttime basis, if at all.
She said she probably would have retired a year ago, after her third Olympics, but she came down with a staph infection in September 2005, which created some obvious problems, in addition to afflicting her in the vital lead-up to the start of the Olympic season. Her results during the season weren't what she had hoped for and winning her seventh U.S. championship - the downhill opening the (coincidentally) TD Banknorth U.S. Alpine Championships at Sugarloaf - spurred her to return for one more year.
Clark said she would ski this coming weekend and make a decision on whether to race during the Nature Valley U.S. Championships, which open next week at Alyeska Resort in Alaska. "I'd like my last run on the Ski Team to be in a race at nationals, not crashing into the fence at World Cup Finals," she said. "We'll see what my body says this weekend."
Bill Marolt, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association president and CEO, said, "We've been fortunate to have Kirsten providing her special brand of leadership and teamwork for more than a decade and we'll definitely miss her. She represents all the best that the U.S. Ski Team strives for in our values. We're so honored to have had her competing for us for so long certainly wish her all the best."
U.S. Alpine Director Jesse Hunt added, "That incredibly generous donation from TD Banknorth, a U.S. Ski Team sponsor, to CVA is an outstanding legacy for Kirsten. I'm sure John Ritzo and his staff will be making the greatest use of it on behalf their athletes and future student athletes. It's a great tribute to a great champion."