By  on February 13, 2002

PARK CITY, Utah -- Nothing about Kelly Clark screams pop star.

Humble, soft-spoken and shy, yes, but raucous? No way.

Yet, her gold-medal performance Sunday in women's half-pipe snowboarding caused crowds to erupt on the hill, in this historic ski town, as if she were Britney Spears. When she arrived unannounced Tuesday night at Mountain Logic, a ski specialty store just steps from the Park City Ski Resort where she had struck gold the day before -- her medal now firmly planted around her neck -- the mostly male crowd of riders cheered and whistled wildly. The 18-year-old waved and lowered her head in embarrassment.

In an unlikely combination of sports and music, Spears surprised Clark, a serious fan of the "I'm Not So Innocent" songstress, on the "Tonight Show" Monday night. Clark told host Jay Leno that she planned to hang her medal near Spears's autographed picture that says "Rip It Up."

Unaware that Spears was sitting in on the taped-delay segment and had watcher her Olympic performance during the limo ride to the studio, the crowd went crazy and Spears said: "All I want now is Kelly's autograph."

"It was so awesome," Clark told WWD in an interview Monday night, shaking her head in disbelief. "I was in such shock I didn't know what to say. I couldn't believe it -- Britney Spears."

That wide-eyed innocence was evident again as Clark looked up at Mountain Logic's wide-screen TV and said, "Look. there's Ross," referring to Ross Powers, a fellow Burton-sponsored athlete who had struck gold in men's snowboarding earlier in the day.

Ignoring a hairline stress fracture suffered on her right wrist in practice a few weeks ago, Clark welcomed autograph seekers like they were doing her a favor. That's not so surprising for an Olympian who during Sunday's awards ceremony pulled the silver and bronze medalists -- France's Dorianne Vidal and Switzerland's Fabienne Reuteler -- on to the upper-tier of the podium following the playing of "The Star Spangled Banner."

Dressed in a pair of black snowboarding pants, red boots and her blue U.S. Olympic jacket from the opening ceremonies, Clark, like snowboarding's point man Jake Burton and many of the other riders, kept her wool hat on indoors -- it's a look. Clark's critique of the Roots uniform, the U.S. snowboarding team's competition gear and several other things Olympian: "OK" by her.

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