Challenge Sport

Is this IT?

Olympic snowboarding medallist Kelly Clark shares her victory over depression

Kelly Clark
HALFPIPE WINNERS: Sochi 2014 bronze medallist Kelly Clark (right) alongside fellow American Kaitlyn Farrington and Australian Torah Bright (left)

Fame, fortune and Olympic medals, Kelly Clark had it all, but despite her success she still could not overcome the thought that no one would miss her if she was gone.

“I’m living the dream, but on the inside I’m dying”"I had won every major snowboarding event I had ever dreamed of winning when I was a kid. And I had poured everything I have into snowboarding," Kelly told BeyondTheUltimate.com in 2012.

"Apart from that... I didn't really know who I was and what I was doing."

Kelly started snowboarding at age seven and was only 18, the youngest member of the U.S Olympic team, when she won gold in 2002.

She quickly became known by everyone as the pro-snowboarder and Olympic champ but admits that, deep inside, she felt unsatisfied and unloved.

"I was thinking, 'If this is what life is, if I've accomplished it all, if this is everything, I don't want to do it anymore'," she admits.

"I'm living the dream, but on the inside I'm dying."

As her medal tally continued to grow, Kelly turned to drinking and partying but nothing seemed to fill the emptiness inside.

"I had spiralled into this depression and into this place that was just real dark," she confesses.

Things were off to a good start during the 2004–05 FIS Snowboarding World Cup season but during the competition things hit rock bottom in Kelly's personal life.

"I spent the morning writing about how I didn't want to live anymore and how it wouldn't even matter, " Kelly told CBN.com.

Kelly Clark2

Things took an unexpected turn when she overheard a conversation between a girl and her upset friend who had just flunked out on the half-pipe heat.

"She was like, 'Hey, it's all right. God still loves you.' I was blown away. If there's a God who loves me, like, I need to know Him!" Kelly recalls.

Opening a Bible she found in her hotel room drawer, Kelly realized she did not know where to start reading.

Finding that the girl she had overheard was in the same hotel, Kelly visited her and said, "I think you need to tell me about God."

"She told me about having a relationship with Jesus... and that was what it was about," Kelly recalls. "My Creator wanted a real relationship with me, and He loved me very much."

Kelly admits that she had always thought Christianity was a religion about following rules and "being good all the time", so it took time for her to process what was shared.

"I had never once wondered why we are here, I had never thought about [God], never been to church, nothing. I had no grid for any of this.

Kelly Clark3
Kelly is the only snowboarder to ever win a medal in three Winter Olympic Games: 2002 gold, 2010 bronze and 2014 bronze

"And so I spent the next four months thinking, 'Ok, God, if You're real, reveal Yourself to me.' I got to the end of my season and I asked myself a few questions like, 'Could I ever wake up another day and not think about God?' And the answer was 'no' because I was thinking about Him every day and He was real and in my life.

"And [another question I asked was]: 'Could I ever run the other way and pretend He didn't exist?' That answer was also 'no', and so I came to a conclusion and said, 'Alright, Jesus, come and live life with me.'"

That was the day Kelly says she gave her life over to Jesus, understanding that God loved her so much; that He had come and given up His own life so she could be forgiven and have a relationship and eternal life with Him.

"That was a huge shifting point for me where my snowboarding became this amazing expression and fun thing, rather than this thing that I had to do," Kelly says.

"It became this thing that I was made to do and I could actually enjoy, and there was so much freedom in it because I wasn't doing it to prove to people who I was."

Suddenly the pressure was off and Kelly says her identity began to centre around being loved by God unconditionally rather than just her success in snowboarding.

Now she boldly rides with a sticker on her snowboard proclaiming, "Jesus I cannot hide my love."

"I'm just so in love with [Jesus]. Every time I think about Him I have to tell Him I love Him 'cause I'm head over heels. He makes me smile," she explains.

"Through my relationship with God I learned who I was, and was comfortable in who I was. But I'll tell you, I've never had more fun snowboarding, and I've never been more free."

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