To stand on the presentation podium and have an Olympic medal draped around one's neck is a moment many of the world's best athletes dare dream about.
A few will even realize it.
Karen Clark did it, she became winner of a silver medal at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta - and it's an experience she will treasure the rest of her life. Clark was a key member of the team that won a silver medal in synchronized swimming for Canada.
Undoubtedly this achievement ranks as a highlight in Karen's competitive sports career that had many other remarkable highlights, including more than 30 medals (figures, solo, duet and team) in international synchro competitions and more than 20 Canadian titles in various categories.
Karen was ranked No. 2 in the world individually when a nagging back injury that required four surgeries for herniated disc ultimately ended her swimming career.
Karen was all of two weeks old when the Clark family moved to Mississauga from Montreal. She is a true "home grown" athlete who started her sports career in a humble way at six years of age in 1978 with the Mississauga Synchronized Swim Club. Little did anyone suspect at the time that 19 years later she would bathe in Olympic glory in Atlanta.
Sandwiched in between her first dip in the Huron Park Recreation Centre Pool and the '96 Summer Games were countless hours of training and an impressive competitive career that saw her win more than 20 Canadian titles and 30 medals in figures, solo, duet and team events internationally.
In 1983, three years after she joined the Olympium organization in Etobicoke, Karen won her first individual provincial title, she became the 10 & Under Ontario champion in all events. Two years further up the road she captured her first national title (junior champion in figures), in the process becoming the youngest synchronized swimmer to ever win a Canadian national title. She repeated the feat three times.
During the 1988-89 season she was chosen to join the national team and in 1989 she became triple silver medallist at the Junior World Championships (solo, duet and team). The following year she won a silver in duet at the international Goodwill Games and first in 1991 then in 1994 helped Canada win silver medals in team events at the World Aquatic Championships.
Karen is also a five-time World FINA Cup medallist (1989 team, 1993 team, 1995 team and 1997 solo and team). Karen and fellow Mississaugan Lisa Alexander provided the backbone for these Canadian success stories. Lisa retired following the Atlanta Olympics leaving Karen to carry on the Canadian torch. She was a member of the Calgary Aquabelles Club (training with coaches Debbie Muir and Michelle Calkins) when the nagging back injury forced her out of the pool.
While establishing herself as one of the premier competitors in Canadian synchronized swim history, Karen also managed to earn a place on the Dean's Honour List while obtaining a Bachelor of Communications degree at the University of Calgary and rate a Dale Carnegie Achievement Award (1997) for excellence in public speaking.
Since her forced retirement, Karen1s has been a familiar byline on the sports pages of the Calgary Herald. She has also covered major amateur sports events for The Canadian Press and was colour commentator on CBC TV for synchronized swimming in the 1991 and 1993 World Aquatic Championships.
In recognition of their Olympic silver medals in Atlanta, Karen and Lisa Alexander were chosen co-winners of Mississauga1s Female Athlete of the Year award for 1996.
On June 3, 2004 Karen was inducted into the Mississauga Sports Hall of Fame.