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The USA’s Kaitlyn Farrington pulled off the biggest achievement of her career to date when she beat the three previous Olympic champions to win the women’s snowboard halfpipe gold at Sochi 2014.
“Everyone loves that story. It’s how we got the money together for my career,” said Kaitlyn Farrington, whose parents Gary and Suz have supported her rise to the top of international snowboarding by selling cattle reared on the ranch where she was born, in Bellevue, Idaho, at the foot of the Sun Valley mountains. The investment has certainly paid off. The Olympic halfpipe champion is a born competitor, having taken part in rodeo barrel races from the age of five, then enjoying a brief dalliance with skiing, before turning her hand to snowboarding as a 14-year-old on the new halfpipe at the Sun Valley ski resort.
A silver medallist at the World Junior Championships in 2008 and the first female rider to perform a backside 900, she has since gone on to become one of the USA’s finest snowboarders, scoring wins on the Dew Tour in 2010 and 2012, taking the Winter X Games Europe title in Tignes in 2010, and landing a silver medal at the Winter X Games a year later.
There were lows in among the highs, however, with Farrington struggling to secure a place on the US team for the Sochi Olympic Winter Games as 2013 came to a close. Fortunately for her, a fifth place in the final qualifier – a World Cup event at Copper Mountain (USA) just before Christmas – secured her a slot on the halfpipe team alongside 2002 Olympic gold medallist Kelly Clark, 2006 Olympic champion Hannah Teter, and Arielle Gold, a silver medallist at the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games and the 2013 world champion.
“I was just happy to have made the team,” said Farrington, who was not ranked among the favourites ahead of the halfpipe competition at Sochi 2014. She spent the whole day in the pipe, finishing seventh in the qualifiers and then fighting her way through the semi-finals, all while listening to the Ghostland Observatory song Give Me That Beat over and over again.
Having got well acquainted with the pipe and found her rhythm, the cowgirl from Idaho placed second on the first run behind team-mate Teter, and prepared for her second descent by watching a good-luck video put together by her fans from Sun Valley. “I thought, ‘I got nothing to lose right now, so might as well go for it,’” she said, recalling her thoughts before that second run. “I did a clean switch back 700, which was the element I was nervous about and the one I had to improve from my first run. When I got to the bottom I was really happy just to have put everything down.”
Rewarded for her fluid style with an excellent score of 91.75, she then sat and watched as three Olympic gold medallists attempted and failed to knock her from top spot, with defending champion Torah Bright of Australia, Clark and Teter all succumbing to the unfancied Farrington, who found her beat just when it mattered most.