Fresh off of her first Olympic win, halfpipe snowboarding gold medalist Kaitlyn Farrington stopped by to talk Sochi and what’s in store for her next.
How nerve-racking was it to watch two other Olympic winners take their final runs after you, before you knew you were taking the gold?
I was confident I had landed my second run and after seeing my score I was just like, "Yes!" That’s really what I wanted to do. Then watching everybody else take their runs, I mean, I wanted them to do well, too, but then once I realized there were just two or three people left I was like, "Oh my gosh, I’m a Olympic medalist!" I got so excited because these were my first Olympics and to even just get a medal was something I had dreamed of. Then once I realized it became the gold I was just so thrilled. My parents made it out to Sochi as well, so it was awesome to experience it with them because I couldn’t imagine calling them after and saying, “Mom, Dad, I won!”
What did you do to celebrate afterwards?
It was awesome because a lot of people had been telling me to be prepared not to see my parents out there, but we actually got to hang out a lot. After I won we all went out to get drinks together. There was a lot of vodka and I pretty much danced my face off.
Are you going to have a big victory party when you get home to Sun Valley?
Oh man, my parents are telling me that the whole town is going crazy! It’s going to be so fun. My first coach from Sun Valley actually made me a really special congratulations video for simply making it to the Olympics, which I watched right before my semifinal run. He could barely look at the camera and talk because he kept tearing up. It was also cut with videos of me growing up with snowboarding, like from my first contest and all my friends wishing me good luck. I was seriously almost crying at the top of the pipe, watching this video. I felt like Sun Valley was right there with me.
There were some reports about the poor condition of the halfpipe in Sochi. Were you nervous about riding at all?
We had two practice days before the competition and they were terrible. It was super warm out, the pipe was bumpy and really hard, and there was a lot of snow at the flat bottom. Finally we were all like, "Well, we’re all riding the same pipe, so we just have to deal with it." But the day of the girls’ contest, we got extremely lucky because the halfpipe was in the best condition it had ever been. I was in the second heat and the girls from the first heat were like,"You are going to be so happy about the pipe because it’s completely different than from our practice runs." It was a little frozen over, but through the day it got beat up and smoothed out a bit, so it definitely wasn’t as bad as the days before.
What about the conditions in Sochi in general? The public saw a lot of unfinished hotel rooms.
Well, I was tucked away in the Olympic Village and had cars that would take me everywhere I needed to be, so thankfully I didn’t have the bad experiences that everyone else seemed to. I also felt safe the entire time. At first everyone was like, "Don’t wear your USA gear out," and I warned my parents not to bring their US snowboarding bags on the trains to Sochi, but there was so much security everywhere. My parents have been divorced for 15 years and went to Russia together, stayed in the same hotel room, and had the best time ever. Honestly I don’t think it was as bad as the media made out to be.
It seems like a lot of the snowboarders are more like your friends rather than your competitors. Would you say that’s true?
We are around each other 10 months out of the year, so we really have developed these great friendships. We all want to see our friends do well and we all want to have fun – that’s the reason we started snowboarding in the first place, for the fun of it. So, we are competitors, but we still want to see each other do well.
Yeah, you all look fired up when someone else does something great.
When someone lands a new trick it’s something that’s inspiring for all of us. I think part of the reason we are so happy for each other is because when one of us does something great, we’re pushing the sport forward. For girls, the sport has been growing so fast these last couple of years that it’s just amazing to be a part of something that’s becoming so big and that is so inspiring to other girls.
Are you already thinking about new moves to bring to your next competition?
Definitely! I want to be better and I know that I have more tucked away in my bag of tricks, so I just need to stay focused and keep improving. There’s a 13-year-old girl named Chloe Kim and she is insane. She kicks all of our butts on the halfpipe, but she couldn’t even go to the Olympics because she was too young. The sport is growing so fast that I can’t afford to be like, oh, I’m going to just coast from here. You need to keep learning things.
When is your next competition?
I’ll be at the U.S. Open in Vail March 3rd through 8th, then, for the most part, it’s kind of free-riding playtime.
Are you already thinking about the 2018 Olympics in South Korea?
Everyone keeps asking me about that, and yeah, I’ll probably try to go another round. I’m actually going to do a couple slope style contests next year to try to change it up a bit from riding the halfpipe all the time. Of course it’s fun, but I also love jumping. I’ve been joking around that I’m going to be a fair weather slope rider because I don’t want to deal with knuckling jumps when it’s snowy or windy and hurting myself, but I really would love to try it out.
What about the snowboard cross?
Uhh, yeah, I’m not into that! If I did the snowboard cross I would probably just sit back and let all the other racers go in front of me and then trail behind. It just freaks me out riding that close with everyone else. It’s fun to watch, but I couldn’t do it.
We read that the reason you supposedly got into snowboarding in the first place was because of boys - how has that turned out for you now that you’re a household name?
Well, I have been getting a lot of prom requests and Instagram proposals recently, so I guess it worked out well! I do have one kid that’s been following me since before the Olympics and on Valentines Day right after my win he had Photoshopped a picture of himself into an image of me kissing my gold medal. It was really funny and it definitely got my attention!
Photos by Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2014