NEW YORK — Kaitlyn Farrington attended the Daytona 500, a Vanity Fair party and the “Game of Thrones” premiere after Sochi, but they don’t compare with what happened when the gold medalist returned to her hometown of Sun Valley, Idaho.
Two dozen screaming 12-year-old girls chased her down a street.
“It was pretty epic,” Farrington said, “but also very scary at the same time.”
Farrington, 24, upset a field that included the last three Olympic champions to win halfpipe gold in Sochi.The rider raised on a cattle ranch was considered questionable to make the U.S. Olympic Team entering winter qualifying, but she beat two-time Olympians Gretchen Bleiler and Elena Hight to join previous Olympic champions Kelly Clark and Hannah Teter and world champion Arielle Gold on the four-woman squad.
At the Olympics, her second-run score of 91.75 edged 2010 Olympic champion Torah Bright by .25 for gold in the closest Olympic halfpipe competition ever.
Farrington said life has changed “100 percent” since Sochi.
“I feel that I’m no longer just Kaitlyn Farrington,” she said at Right To Play’s Big Red Ball gala on Wall Street on Tuesday night. “I’m Kaitlyn Farrington, the gold medalist.”
Farrington flew from Sochi to New York for a week of media, then to Florida to be an honorary marshal at the Daytona 500 (and ride a pace car) and then to Idaho.
She cried for the first time since winning gold entering the terminal at Friedman Memorial Airport, where a marching band and girls from the Sun Valley snowboard team waited for her arrival on the tarmac. A parade was held for Farrington, who rode in a silver 1966 Ford Mustang GT convertible and a Wood River Fire & Rescue ladder truck.
Farrington said students were let out of schools to see her, which caused many kids to let out their excitement by chasing the gold medalist. Farrington could only think to run away from the stampede, though she’s very appreciative of Sun Valley and the surrounding community, which raised money to send her parents to Sochi.
“It felt like everyone’s victory,” Farrington said.
Then she traveled to Hollywood for the Oscars and to Colorado for the U.S. Open, where she said she arrived the day of the competition and finished 11th, her first time riding halfpipe since the Olympics.
Then she flew back to New York for the “Game of Thrones” premiere and to British Columbia for a week of back-country riding.
Her medal picked up scratches and dings through it all, including a dent after it dropped out of her pocket when she was on a dance floor before she left Russia.
Farrington may take one more adventure to Costa Rica before returning to riding in Mt. Hood, Ore., this summer and then probably in New Zealand. She’ll work not only on her halfpipe skills but also on slopestyle, with a goal of entering slope at the Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships.
She’s entertaining the idea of attempting to qualify for the 2018 Olympics in slopestyle and trying to become the first snowboarder to win medals in multiple disciplines, a feat Shaun White and Bright couldn’t accomplish in Sochi.
“Winning the gold medal was something that I’ve always wanted to do, but it was never expected out of me,” Farrington said. “Now that I’ve done it, I feel like I can take my snowboarding to places that I’ve always wanted to.”