USA Team Handball caught up with Kim Clarke, who first discovered handball when her sister saw an ad inviting athletes to come tryout for the handball national team in a magazine and signed her up. Kim went on to become a three-time Olympian who represented Team USA in the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games.
Take a look at our Q&A below to learn more about Clarke, her handball memories and the years since her athletic career:
Give us a brief overview of what life looks like for you nowadays:
KC: I work for the healthcare insurance provider Anthem, Inc. as a Manager of Data and Reporting Analytics. I manage a team of 10 programmers and we try to recover on overpay claims. I’m currently working from home due to the coronavirus, but I’m able to put in a full work week.
We dig into data warehouses and try to write programs for claims that were paid wrong honestly, not fraud. We try to catch claims that are honest mistakes. I really enjoy figuring out issues involving logic, so I like the challenges that my work brings each day.
Personally, my partner Rhonda and I live in Smyrna, Georgia, outside of Atlanta. We like to golf, play tennis, hike, and go wine tasting. I’ve gone through a knee replacement on both knees, through all my years playing handball and was very fortunate that both of those surgeries went well. I'm still able to be active and do a lot of outdoor activities.
How did you first get into your current career track/profession?
KC: When we were training for the 1996 Olympics, Anthem (which, at the time, was Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia) was part of the Olympic job opportunity program. So I got a job there and made a career out of it.
It's been a great company for me to work for and I've been able to move up the company ladder from when I started there. When you were training for handball and also putting in some part-time hours, they couldn't give you many high-priority projects to get done. But it was a good start for me. After the Olympics, I applied for a marketing analyst job there, which got me interested in Microsoft Access, databases and building reports out of them.
I decided to get my Master’s degree in Information Technology (IT). Anthem helped me go back to school and after navigating a few different positions, I finally landed at the job that I'm at now.
Are you still involved with the handball community and in touch with your handball teammates?
KC: Yes! I’ve attended two Olympic reunions in recent years, one in 2014 and one in 2019. It's wonderful to catch up with everybody and it’s really cool that we have such a strong family of handball sisters and brothers. When we get together, it's like old times.
Both the men's and the women's teams — whether we trained at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs or were living and training together in New Jersey, it turned us all into a really close-knit family.
When other sports’ athletes see us together at the reunion, they're just amazed. First, at the turnout of handball alumni that come to the reunion, and second, at how close we all are even though we're not one of the high-profile sports. I guess you could say you don't need to win a gold medal to have that bond.
What was your favorite Olympic Games that you competed in?
KC: My first Olympics, 1988 in Seoul, was my favorite. I tore my ACL in 1983 and wasn't able to make the 1984 team. So when I made the decision to start training for the ’88 Olympics, my parents weren't too sure because of all the time and dedication required. They didn’t know if they should push me to go to college or if it was okay to let me continue training in handball.
When I made the ’88 team, my parents were able to go to Korea and attend the Opening Ceremony. They finally got to see how awesome the Olympics are and were in such amazement. They were like ‘alright Kim, this was well-worth it’.
It was really special to have their support and presence at that first Olympics in Korea. That first Olympics really stuck with me, being able to travel and experience the Olympic Village for the first time. It was definitely my favorite.
Do you feel like you apply any parts of your Olympic experience or Olympic values in your current life?
KC: I'm definitely a players' coach. I take the role of trying to make my team the best programmers they can be. If they work hard for me, I'll work hard for them. It’s like that coaching and patience that you learn as a handball player.
During a certain play or situation, the coach would tell you, on this play, you have to throw it to the wing or the center back — and sometimes as the coach, you're like, why does she keep making that same mistake?
I’ve taken that to my job now as well. Why does this person keep making this programming error? You just have to take a step back and continue to teach them and coach them. One of these days, it'll sink in. Just stay patient.
Where would you like to see the sport go in the next few years, especially leading up to the LA 2028 Olympic Games?
KC: I saw our Women’s National Team play recently and their level of play, ball movement and skill definitely has improved. I remember thinking, wow. They're definitely going in the right direction there. It was really good to see them being a lot more competitive. As we all know, practice and hard work will pay off in competition. I think they also started playing a lot more games in their schedule, which helped out too.
Hopefully we can develop a continuous flow in our national team schedule, rather than dedicating everything towards the Olympics and then having to rebuild once the Games are over. I hope we’ll be able to develop a stronger team if we’re able to develop a larger competition schedule and play in more tournaments that develop our players.
What sort of advice would you give to USA Team Handball’s national team athletes who are currently at home and unable to compete due to Covid-19?
KC: Here's your chance to take care of those lingering injuries and get stronger, get healthier. You probably know your weakness and what you need to work on. To me, now's the perfect time to hone in on your skills.
Also, we didn't have tapes or film back when we were playing. I think watching film is a great way to improve, since you can see the movement, feel the flow of the game and mimic how people navigate and shoot. If you try and emulate what you see on TV, then you can practice in your backyard at home.