The 1080 is the kind of trick the snowboarding world takes seriously – really seriously. It's a move that separates the elite from the wannabes, that shows who's willing to push the sport's limits and, literally, ride to new heights.
Which is why it was fitting – and a big deal – when Olympic gold medalist Kelly Clark became the first woman in history to pull one off in competition in 2011, perfectly executing the 1,080-degree spin, or three revolutions midair.
But that's just another day in the life of Clark, 30, of Dover, Vt., who also regularly shows off moves like the 900, or completing two and a half rotations while spinning at 495 degrees per second. She's the most accomplished athlete in men's and women's snowboarding history, with a résumé that includes three Olympic appearances, four U.S. Grand Prix titles and 11 X Games medals.
In an interview with U.S. News, Clark dishes on how she's prepping for the Games, both physically and mentally:
How are you feeling in these weeks leading up to Sochi?
I was fortunate enough to qualify for the Olympics before Christmas. I kind of unloaded my plate and didn't have to be conservative to make the team after that – I could put myself in competitive, technically challenging situations. I've had the privilege of this opportunity several times now, and I know there's a difference between having potential and being prepared. And for me, it's been all about being prepared.
What's your daily diet like?
The name of the game for me is "eat enough." I focus a lot on recovery food – I demand a lot out of my body on a daily basis, so I have to make sure that after I work out or train, I'm constantly replenishing myself. That means a lot of protein bars and smoothies, and it means in-between meals.
My meals themselves aren't super strict or special: it's protein, carbs, veggies, salads and stuff like that that's pretty basic. It's just a well-balanced diet.
So what's a typical breakfast?
Coffee is always in the mix, and water is shortly behind that. If I'm home I juice, but when I'm on the road I usually have smoothies. So maybe a berry smoothie in the morning (with yogurt and a berry mix), some OJ in there, and then I usually have eggs, toast and bacon. It could be an omelet or sandwich, just some form of that.
[Read: High-Protein Breakfast Ideas.]
Are you still working out in the gym pre-Sochi?
I'm in the gym six days a week. Right now, it's focusing on recovery and maintenance, not necessarily strength building – which is more my focus from May to the end of November.
You've said that you aim to train smarter, rather than harder. Why is that important?
Traditionally, stereotypes would maybe say that snowboarding is a young person's sport. I just rounded 30 this year, and I can definitely tell you that my body doesn't respond as quickly or recover as quickly as it used to. And from that perspective, I have to be smarter with my training. I can't go out and do five days on the hill straight. It's usually three days on; one day off. I have to prioritize my rest a little bit more, and if I don't go to the gym after riding one day, I feel it the next day. It's a bit more of an investment than it used to be. All that being said, the sport has progressed, where it's more physically demanding than it's ever been as well. So from both a performance and an injury prevention standpoint, it's required.
What do you love about snowboarding?
I love that you can be creative, and I love that you can progress and bring your own style into things. But I think what keeps me coming back is that you're never going to be the best. It's always changing. It's impossible to be perfect. I always compare it to golf – you can be good, but you're never going to be the best. And there isn't a day that I go out there and I'm not challenged, and I think that's why I can still be so motivated and enjoy it so much after 15 years of competing.