Friday, January 8, 2021

World-class skiing champion got start in Raymond

Kirsten Clark-Rickenbach competed in three Winter Olympic Games

By Ed Pierce

Her record speaks for itself and it’s likely that Raymond’s Kirsten Clark-Rickenbach will be remembered as the best Alpine skier ever from Maine.

She went from winning the U.S. Junior National Championship to earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic Ski Team and competing in the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympic Games. Clark-Rickenbach also excelled in World Cup competition, securing a downhill victory, 28 Top-10 finishes, taking home a Silver Medal in the 2003 world Alpine Championships, and won seven U.S. National Championships including five straight downhill titles.

Now almost 14 years following her retirement from competitive skiing, Clark-Rickenbach remembers fondly growing up in Raymond and how it was a springboard to her success in life.

Growing up in Raymond, Kirsten Clark-Rickenbach went on
to become one of the top American Alpine skiers in history
and competed in three Winter Olympic Games as a member
of the U.S. Ski Team. COURTESY OF SKIMAG.COM  
I remember spending lots of time on Panther Pond, swimming, waterskiing and enjoying being outside,” she said. “My parents, George and Joan Clark, still live in Raymond. We try to get back there during the summer months, but we were unable to this year because of COVID.”

From kindergarten through sixth grade, she attended school in Raymond at Jordan-Small School and then went to North Yarmouth Academy for two years before transferring to Carrabassett Valley Academy at Sugarloaf as her skiing career was starting to take off.

“My parents started my brother Sean, and I in skiing because it was a great family sport that we could all do,” Clark-Rickenbach said. “We all enjoyed being outside and enjoyed skiing. I grew up loving to ski and I was able to make a career out of ski racing, I feel that I was extremely fortunate that I was able to pursue my dreams and that I was able to make them a reality.”  

The skier’s first victories were recorded in 1994 when she won the U.S. Junior Olympics downhill championship and a bronze medal in the Super Giant Slalom at Sugarloaf. In 1997, she captured the Nor-Am GS title.

Hard work, determination and years of training paid off for her when she earned a place on the U.S. Ski Team at the age of 19. At age 20, she competed for the U.S. in the Winter Olympics at Nagano, Japan.

“The best thing about competing in the Olympics, that is a tough one,” Clark-Rickenbach said. “It is amazing to fulfill a dream and to complete at the Olympics, and not to do it only once but three times. I
was honored and excited to be competing for my home country.”  

The life as a competitive skier can be a grind and a test of mental and physical endurance as Clark-Rickenbach found out during her career.

“World Cup Ski Racing occurs for the majority of the time in Europe for the winter,” she said. “The most difficult thing was being away from home for so long. There would be years I would leave at the end of November and not return until the end of March. That is a long period of time to be away from family and friends.”

Overcoming serious injuries sustained in World Cup competition, Clark says she’s proud of what she was able to accomplish and officially retired from competitive skiing in 2007. In 2010, she was inducted into the Maine Ski Hall of Fame and she was honored with induction into the U.S. Ski-Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2012.

She now lives with her husband, Andreas Rickenbach, a former World Cup skier and a former U.S. Ski Team coach, in Olympic Valley, California.  

“My husband and I are raising two daughters, who are 12 and 10,” Clark-Rickenbach said. “We spend
the days in the summer, horseback riding, hiking, biking and enjoying the outdoors. In the winter we spend our time skiing.”

According to Rickenbach-Clark, her advice for young people who are interested in someday competing in the Olympics is simple.

“If you have a dream and a goal, go after it,” she said. “So much of the excitement of reaching and striving for your dreams is the journey that it takes you on.  Believe in yourself and always put 100 percent effort into your training. If you are putting a 100 percent effort in, then you can always hold your head high and know you did your best.” <

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