Idaho Olympic star Kaitlyn Farrington ‘can’t wait to come home’

The gold medalist spoke with the Idaho Statesman about her winning run and plans.

ccripe@ idahostatesman.com © 2014 Idaho StatesmanFebruary 15, 2014 

  • SUN VALLEY/BELLEVUE PARTY STILL IN THE WORKS

    The Wood River Valley will hold a community celebration for new Olympic gold medalist Kaitlyn Farrington, who hopes to return home later next week.

    Farrington’s family is working with officials in Sun Valley, the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation and her hometown of Bellevue on specific details, said Jack Sibbach, director of marketing and public relations for Sun Valley.

    “We are planning a valley-wide homecoming,” he said.

    The specific date is based on her travel plans, including a stop in New York for media appearances.

    Sibbach said a ski, snowboard and/or designated area will be named in honor of Farrington, who won gold in women’s snowboard halfpipe.

    “It is a longstanding tradition here in Sun Valley, and we hope to continue that tradition with Kaitlyn and many more to come,” Sibbach said.

    Previous Winter Olympic medalists who have Bald Mountain runs named in their honor are Gretchen Fraser, Picabo Street and Christin Cooper, plus Paralympian Muffy Davis.

    There used to be a halfpipe at Bald Mountain; instead, there is now a superpipe at Dollar Mountain.

    Farrington, born in Hailey and raised in Bellevue, grew up skiingin Sun Valley.

Kaitlyn Farrington hopes to return home to Bellevue next week before the Closing Ceremony of the Sochi Olympics, she said Friday.

Farrington leaves Russia on Saturday for New York, where she will appear on “Late Show with David Letterman” (scheduled for Thursday) and “Live with Kelly and Michael.”

Next stop: Sun Valley.

She does not plan to return to Russia for the closing, Farrington said in a telephone interview with the Idaho Statesman.

“That’s what I’m really looking forward to — coming back to Sun Valley and seeing everybody who supported me through this whole journey,” she said.

Farrington, a 24-year-old who lives in Salt Lake City now but was raised on a Bellevue cattle ranch and the slopes of Sun Valley, won the women’s halfpipe Wednesday. The halfpipe was staged at the ski resort that is the centerpiece of the Mountain Cluster of venues. She received her medal at a ceremony in the Coastal Cluster, the main hub of the Olympics by the Black Sea.

Among those who congratulated her in Russia: Picabo Street, the Sun Valley skier who was the last winter gold medalist raised in Idaho (1998, super G) and is working at the Games for Fox Sports.

“She told me to pick my run I want named after me,” Farrington said.

Q: What have you been doing for the past 48 hours since you won gold?

A: I’ve been doing a lot of interviews — talking about how awesome I am, pretty much (laughing). It’s been pretty wild. I’ve been trying to enjoy every moment of it. I’ve been doing lots of interviews and having fun.

Q: Have you been able to celebrate with your parents (Gary Farrington and Suz Locke)?

A: Yeah. The night that I won, I got to go have a drink with my parents. It was awesome because everybody was saying leading up to this, ‘Don’t expect to see your parents. Don’t expect to hang out with them.’ I’ve seen them a lot. They were at all my practices. After I won my medal, I got to hang out with them. They came to some of the interviews and watched me do some things. They went to USA House. I got to see a lot of them.

Q: You said after the event you were going to dance all night. Did you get to dance?

A: Oh yes. I got to go dancing. I’ve been dancing the whole way through this.

Q: What was it like to see Picabo — the last gold medalist from Sun Valley?

A: It was awesome to see her. I grew up watching her ski. She’s always been an idol. … When I was a kid, I met her a couple of times.

Q: And now girls will be looking up to you like you did with her …

A: I can’t even believe it. Every time I go home, I go riding with the girls from the Sun Valley snowboard team. I always ride with them. They’re just so cute. It’s been crazy — now I’m really excited to go back home and get to go riding with those girls. It’s just amazing to be their idol. It’s awesome to be a role model.

Q: What did you think of the good-luck video Sun Valley sent you?

A: It was awesome. I got the video in the morning (of the competition). I was trying to open it. (Sun Valley coach Andy Gilbert) said, ‘You have to watch this before you compete.’ I couldn’t get it to load. I was at the top of the halfpipe during the semifinals, right before I was going for my first run, and (a U.S. coach) said, ‘Kaitlyn, did you watch the video?’ I said, ‘No, I didn’t get a chance to see it.’ So he’s like, ‘I’ll pull it up for you.’ I got to watch it right at the top of the pipe. It almost brought me to tears. It was, ‘Wow, I’ve come a long way.’ I felt like Sun Valley was right there with me dropping into the pipe.

Q: Did that make you think of all the things you’ve gone through to get here?

A: When I was standing on that podium (Thursday), receiving my medal, I thought, ‘Wow, all the hard work I’ve put into this has just paid off completely.’ It was an amazing experience, just being named to the team. Receiving that gold medal last night, it was, ‘Holy cow, I did it.’

Q: You won Wednesday but the first time you got the medal was Thursday night?

A: Yes. (Thursday) during all the interviews, people were asking me about it. I said, ‘I still don’t believe it because I haven’t gotten the medal yet.’

Q: Have you taken it off since?

A: Yeah, I have. It’s crazy walking around with it. People say, ‘Can I get a photo? Just one photo?’ I say, ‘Yeah, sure,’ and then there’s 30 people wanting photos.

Q: How was the medal ceremony?

A: It was just so surreal — getting to stand up there, especially with (bronze medalist) Kelly Clark and (silver medalist) Torah Bright. They’re both just unreal athletes. Kelly has been saying this whole time, 12 years she’s been in this — she’s done four Olympics. That’s just crazy to hear. Standing up there, having the national anthem played for me, was such an amazing feeling. It almost brought me to tears. I had to choke it back, but I made it through. … I was just trying to enjoy the moment. Everybody has been telling me since I’ve been here, since I’ve medaled, ‘Just take it all in, Kaitlyn. Just take it all in.’ Because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I’ve gotten to live these past couple days.

Q: How do you think this will change your career?

A: I get to walk around and say I’m an Olympic gold medalist, and that’s just an amazing feeling, to be able to say that and to be able to carry it for the rest of my life. It also makes me want to be a better snowboarder. I’m going to go home and keep riding and keep having fun. I just can’t wait to go home and see all my friends and ride with my friends.

Q: Are you going to compete for another four years?

A: I think I will go for another four years, maybe make it to Korea (for the 2018 Olympics).

Q: What’s your message going to be to the girls in Sun Valley?

A: The sky is the limit. When I first started snowboarding, I never thought I’d be an Olympic gold medalist.

Q: Your first Olympic dreams were as a swimmer. When was the earliest you remember having those thoughts?

A: I think every kid has the dream of, ‘I want to be an Olympian.’ I grew up thinking I was going to be an Olympian for swimming. … When I got named to the (Olympic snowboard) team, that was one of my top five moments in my life. Now I’ve topped that one.

Q: The experts said you won because of how clean and technical your run was. What made the difference?

A: I had a really long night. I did qualifiers, semifinals and finals. It was a lot of riding for one day. My legs are so sore, for the last two days. My body hurts. I told Kelly the day before — we were talking about how it was going to be broken down, who was in what heat — I told Kelly, ‘I plan on riding all day tomorrow.’ That was the best thing I could have said for myself. When I didn’t make it straight to finals, I wasn’t upset about it. I thought, ‘All right, this is fun, I’ve got one more round.’ Semifinals, it was actually like a practice for me. It helped me in the end. I was in the halfpipe all day. … I changed my run up because something else was working better than it was earlier. It made me more comfortable in the halfpipe, and I think it really showed in the finals.

Q: You had to watch three former gold medalists try to beat your score. What were you thinking sitting at the bottom of the hill?

A: I was just so happy I landed my run. I talked with one of my coaches (from Ski and Snowboard Club Vail), Elijah Teter, after my first run (in the finals) and he said, ‘Kaitlyn, you just need to clean that run up and it could be a medal run.’ … As the girls came down, I couldn’t believe it. When I realized I was going to be on the podium, I was just so happy about that. … Really, every day is different in snowboarding. Any one of us could have won that medal. I was just on my game that night. It was a good time to be on it.

Q: What is going to stand out about that night when you look back on it?

A: Being able to be there with all of those girls and such great riders. We’ve all been joking for the past couple days that we’re the golden girls because there are four of us (Clark, 2002; Hannah Teter, 2006; Bright, 2010) who have Olympic gold medals.

Q: In snowboarding, the other athletes always seem so happy for the winners. Why is that?

A: We’re all such good friends. We’ve gotten to know each other over the years. We’re with each other the whole season. We just want to see our friends do well. It’s inspiring to watch your friend come down the halfpipe and have the run of their life. You can’t be mad about that. They killed it. It’s inspiring to watch.

Q: Do you know when you’ll compete next?

A: The U.S. Open in Vail (Colo.). … That’s the last event of the season. (The event is March 3-8.)

Q: And then do you take some time off?

A: Yeah. I was talking about it earlier this year — I’d like to live at the beach for the summer. I’m going to figure out where I want to go and do that.

Q: Do you surf?

A: I try to surf. I call it drowning, actually. I love surfing. I learned a few years ago. I’m trying to get better and do it as much as I can.

Q: What did it mean to get to celebrate the gold with your parents?

A: It was just so awesome to have my parents here. I’m so happy they got to make the trip. It would have been completely different to have to call them on the phone and tell them about it. To have them here, they got to experience it with me. … My mom said, ‘This was one of the best moments of my life besides when you were born and your sister was born.’ They embraced every moment of it. They had so much fun. My parents have been divorced for 15 years, and they’ve been here together this whole time. They said, ‘We’re having the best trip ever.’ The day after, when I won, it was, ‘The trip was already so fun. Now this is even better.’

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398,Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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