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Pipe dreams come true: Kaitlyn Farrington as good as gold

February 12, 2014

“First place and Olympic champion representing the United States of America - Kaitlyn Farrington,” boomed the public address announcer.

Kaitlyn Farrington was good as gold this morning in Sochi, Russia. The 24-year-old member of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Gold Team stood atop the podium at the conclusion of the women’s Olympic snowboard halfpipe, scoring an “unassailable” 91.75 points after topping three of the previous Olympic champions, Torah Bright of Australia, who scored 91.50 points, and Kelly Clark of the United States with 90.75 points, and Hannah Teter of the U.S. in fourth with 90.50 points. 

"I can't believe it. I come out to each contest and I try and do a different run and that's my approach to it," Farrington said. "Sitting at the bottom, I was stoked I landed my run and once I knew I was going to be on the podium I was happy. I was hoping to make it to the finals, that was my main goal and then during the finals I thought if I land a good run I might be on the podium. So to come out on top - I just can't believe it." 

SVSEF snowboard coach Andy Gilbert was in agreement. “I am in shock. I am in complete and utter shock," he said. 

Watching alone at home with his phone switched off, Gilbert followed Kaitlyn’s progression through the event, a fourth in the quarterfinals and second in the semifinals.

“I do feel like she looked confident throughout,” Gilbert said. “I was a little worried looking at the semis because it makes for a long day to push it in not get tired, but she came out swinging.”

In second place after the first run in the Olympic final, Kaitlyn appeared loose and happy on top of the Rosa Khutor halfpipe, and stomped a clean and tightly executed run to score 91.75 points. While detractors bemoaned the state of the halfpipe for the men's competition, Gilbert said he thought pipe conditions improved as the competition wore on. 

“The great thing about her run was her landings were all really clean,’ Gilbert assessed. “She dropped in air to fakie, into a switch backside 900 – pretty much that trick did it for her there are no girls doing that trick. She had an alley-oop spin which is up pipe. She had a really unique creative run and the judges awarded her on their overall impression. I think across the board they are a little tired of seeing you spin until you land. They want to see mastery of snowboarding. They want to see creative runs from people that can spin both ways.”

At the conclusion of the flower ceremony, in which Kaitlyn graciously pulled Bright and Clark onto the top platform with her, the Bellevue native embraced parents, Gary Farrington and Suz Locke, who beamed with excitement and pride.

They, undoubtedly, were not the only ones experiences those feelings.

“I can’t describe how it feels. Kaitlyn first started with us as a fifth grader and obviously it takes a village,” Gilbert said. “Billy Olson, AJ Grabos, Jacob Tyler, John French all had a hand in her development and it is fairly inspiring to know I had something to do with it. I am blown away." 

Farrington is the 19th SVSEF Olympian and second gold medalist with Picabo Street capturing gold in super G in the 1998 Winter Olympics at Nagano, Japan. She is the fourth consecutive SVSEF snowboarder to compete in the Winter Games dating back to Sondra Van Ert in 1998 and 2002, Graham Watanabe and Aprilia Hagglof in 2006, and Watanabe again in 2010. The SVSEF was named USSA Snowboard Club of the Year in 2013, along with USSA Club of the Year. 

Farrington summed up, "I can't believe I was sitting there in front of the last three gold medalists. It's crazy. Snowboarding is changing so much. It's anybody's game on any day." 

The riveting women's final will be featured on NBC's primetime coverage, tonight, Wednesday, February 12, at 7 p.m. MST.