Bellevue, Sun Valley greet Olympic gold medalist Kaitlyn Farrington

ccripe@idahostatesman.comFebruary 24, 2014 

KETCHUM — Kaitlyn Farrington stepped off the Delta jet to a hero’s welcome at Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey — greeted by close friends and family, a band, two mayors and a congratulatory banner held by local snowboarding girls.

Then she walked through the glass doors and stepped into a frenzy inside the terminal, where she posed for photos, signed autographs and showed off the gold medal she won in the women’s snowboard halfpipe at the Sochi Olympics.

She stopped a couple times to brush away tears.

“This is the first time I’ve cried,” Farrington said. “Everyone said, ‘It’s gonna happen, Kaitlyn, it’s gonna happen.’ Going into the airport, having everyone there who supported me through the years, it was just an amazing feeling.”

Farrington, 24, grew up in Bellevue. She returned home for the first time since Christmas after a week of interviews in New York City and a ride in the pace car at the Daytona 500 on Sunday.

She lives in Salt Lake City now, but she plans to spend the entire week with her family in Bellevue. Sun Valley has a party planned for Saturday, when a local ski run will be named after her. There’s a contest for children to name the run, but “Kaitlyn’s Way” could be hard to beat.

That’s been her life story.

“Because I do things the way I want to do them,” she said. “I don’t take advice from anyone else.”

Added Andy Gilbert, the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation coach who helped propel her on this path: “You’ve always surrounded yourself with good people and done it your way. You’ve made good decisions to get to this point.”

Farrington shared her success with her hometown Monday. She paraded through the streets of Bellevue on the back of a 1966 Ford Mustang GT, then switched to the top of a ladder truck from Wood River Fire & Rescue for the trip through Hailey and Ketchum. The downtown streets were lined — most noticeably with screaming schoolchildren who chanted “Kaitlyn! Kaitlyn!” and “USA! USA!” while holding signs of support.

Farrington signed countless autographs through the day — they were personalized with the child’s name and her motto, “100% fun” — and posed for photos with her medal.

Want to touch it? Just ask.

“Lots of people already have,” she said. “People say, ‘Bite your medal.’ I don’t want to. So many people have touched it already.”

The medal usually is in her pocket or her backpack, since she can’t move through a crowd without being stopped if it’s around her neck.

She hasn’t figured out what to do with it next.

“I’m probably going to carry it around in my pocket for the next month and milk it as much as I can, and then I’ll go from there,” she said.

We’ll have much more from Farrington’s big day in Tuesday’s Idaho Statesman.

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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