The Wood River Valley threw out the welcome mat for newly-crowned Olympic snowboard halfpipe gold medalist Kaitlyn Farrington of Bellevue on Monday afternoon.
Greeting Farrington were adoring crowds, honking cars, waving fans, hugs aplenty with mentors, coaches and friends, a key to the city of Bellevue, a police es-cort through the valley and a ride on a fire truck—“my chariot,” Kaitlyn laughed, like she laughed most of the day.
“My whole world has just changed,” she said at a press conference at the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation office and training center in Ketchum. “It’s been a whirlwind. It’s been crazy. But I’ve been able to enjoy the moment. It is something very special.”
Yet the 2008 Silver Creek High School graduate and Westminster (Utah) College student has a way of keep-ing things in perspective. She said at the press conference, “It’s just snowboarding, nothing bigger than that. I just want to have fun and keep it fun.”
She did say she was impressed when actor/singer Zac Efron followed her on Twitter.
Farrington’s whirlwind experience started Wednes-day, Feb. 12, when the 24-year-old unexpectedly de-feated the previous three Olympic women’s halfpipe gold medalists to take the gold medal at Krasnaya Polyana, near Sochi, Russia.
To win the competition at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, the 5-4, 126-pound Bellevue native rode all day and all the way through the qualification heats and semifinals.
With parents Suz Locke and Gary Farrington watching in delight, Kaitlyn then captured the gold by edging defending Olympic champ Torah Bright, 27, of Australia, and American teammate Kelly Clark, 30.
She said, “I started at 2 p.m. that day and ended at 10 p.m. I just kept on taking laps in the pipe, changing my run every time, which helped me get a good feel for the pipe. For me, I put my ‘Big O’ playlist in my iPod and just looked at it as another halfpipe competition.”
For the record, her go-to competition song all season and at the Olympics was by Ghostland Observatory, an Austin-based electro-rock/funk group that now lists gold medalist Farrington on its Wikipedia website.
“I’ve always been the underdog. I’m different. And now people know that I can break out,” she said.
She danced most of the night after her victory. She said she hasn’t taken her snowboard out of her travel bag since, wedging it into various vehicles that have shuttled her to an amazing number of public appear-ances.
Her “most fun” appearance was on the “Opie and Anthony” satellite radio talk show. On Sunday, she served as an honorary race official at the Daytona 500 in Florida. She was on the “Late Show with David Let-terman,” as well. She was ushered around New York City. Her preference? She hopes to go to the beach.
Farrington flew into Hailey on Monday, her first time home since Christmas. She had been waiting for the emotions to burst forth, but she said she cried for the first time since her Olympic victory when she fi-nally arrived home Monday.
“It’s nice to be home. I just want to enjoy it, and go over to Dollar and ride,” said Kaitlyn, who started ski-ing at age 3 and snowboarding at 11 because “I wanted to be like my older sister,” Jessalyn.
Kaitlyn added about all the hoopla in the last two weeks, “It’s been amazing to tell my story, because no-body cared until now. It just shows you can come from nothing and end up at the top.”
Her Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation snow-board coach Andy Gilbert said at the press conference, “Kaitlyn has always surrounded herself with good people and has done it her way. It all came together at the same time for her.”
Asked when he knew that Farrington had the makings of top snowboarder, Gilbert said, “It was her work ethic—how hard she would practice and give every boy out there a run for their money. It was her mindset and mental toughness as well as her ability. And her uniqueness, pushing for tricks that the others didn’t have.”
Gilbert mentioned Farrington has competed independently for the past two seasons after leaving U.S. Snow-boarding.
She has been both a member of the SVSEF Gold Team and has also trained with Ski and Snowboard Club/Vail of Colorado. She said she was happy to be greeted at the bottom after her Olympic runs by her coaches Elijah Teter and Ben Boyd, both from the Vail club.
Farrington said, “I will try for the next Olympics, but right now I’ll enjoy this one.”
Kaitlyn’s party continues at Warm Springs on Saturday
The new Olympic gold medalist plans to leave the valley Sunday, March 2, and head to Vail for the 2014 Burton’s U.S. Open Snowboarding March 3-8. The women’s halfpipe final is set for Saturday, March 8.
First, the Wood River Valley will give Kaitlyn one more party Saturday, March 1, at which time Sun Val-ley Resort is expected to announce which mountain run will be re-named in honor of Farrington.
Kaitlyn will get to choose the name the run, having considered suggestions made by children. She said she likes the name “Kaitlyn’s Way,” because she has al-ways done things the way she wants.
As for which particular run, Kaitlyn said with a half-smile that she would like Broadway on Seattle Ridge to be renamed for her, if only because Seattle Ridge was once off-limits to snowboarders and Broad-way is a gateway to Seattle Ridge.
Scheduled events are:
- At 2:30 p.m., festivities begin at Warm Springs Lodge with live music, food and beverage specials from Sun Valley Co. From 4-4:45 p.m., there will be an official ceremony honoring the new snowboard halfpipe gold medalist on the Warm Springs deck. The list of speakers is still being finalized.
- From 4:45-7 p.m., a street party will be held on Pi-cabo Street between Jane Lane and Lloyd Court. It will feature live music by Old Death Whisper. Food and drink specials will be available at Apple’s Bar & Grill in Warm Springs.