Vail coaches guide Kaitlyn Farrington to surprise gold in Sochi snowboard halfpipe
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Avon resident and Ski and Snowboard Club Vail coach Elijah Teter wasn’t planning to come to Russia.
But Kaitlyn Farrington, the halfpipe snowboarder he coaches, insisted that he be here for her Olympic debut.
So Teter made last-minute travel arrangements and showed up as halfpipe training began several days ago. He came to Wednesday night’s halfpipe event at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park without a coach’s credential, but managed to find a spot where he could speak to Farrington after each run.
“I couldn’t take ‘no,’” Teter said. “I couldn’t be in the stands. I can’t be on the radio telling these guys advice. I had to be at the bottom talking to them one-on-one.”
Farrington put together a precise and error-free first run that put her in second place next to Elijah’s sister Hannah.
As Farrington left the finish area for her second run, she paused to speak to Elijah.
“I just told her to send it,” Elijah said. “I told her this is the run.”
Indeed it was — Farrington landed a switch backside 720, a backside 900, an alley-oop 540, a backside 540 and a frontside 720, seemingly with ease.
She had to wait to see if Olympic gold medalists Torah Bright (2010), Hannah Teter (2006) and Kelly Clark (2002) could beat her score.
Clark nearly did, attempting the only 1080 of the contest, but it wasn’t clean. Clark ended up with bronze, and Bright took silver. Teter was pushed to fourth.
Farrington stood atop the podium for the United States’ third Olympic gold of the games.
“It was awesome,” Elijah Teter said. “Of course, I would love to see my sister up on the podium. But Kaitlyn, she works hard. It’s great to see hard work pay off.”
At the top of the pipe was Farrington’s other Ski and Snowboard Club Vail coach, Ben Boyd, another Vail Valley local. Boyd heads up Ski and Snowboard Club Vail’s snowboard program. He was officially here with the Australian team but was serving as a coach for Farrington as well.
“The emotions are all over,” Boyd said. “You’re nervous for her, your heart is going a million miles an hour. To sit there and wait for all the riders to come was nerve-racking, but when you see that she had won, I cried, I’ll be honest. I was really emotional.”
Boyd has called Farrington the best technical female rider in the world, and that assessment seemed correct Wednesday night.
“She’s just got combos that a lot of guys struggle with,” Boyd said. “I’m proud of her because she pushes the sport in the way she thinks it needs to be pushed, and I think it’s good for women’s riding.”
Farrington, 24, who is from Sun Valley, Idaho, and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, made the decision two years ago to part with the U.S. coaches and work with Ski and Snowboard Club Vail.
Teter’s presence in Sochi was key to making her feel calm in her first Olympics, she said.
“It was really important for me to have him there even though he couldn’t make it to the top of the pipe,” Farrington said. “For him to be at the bottom was just what I needed.”
Two nights, two medals
Farrington said she never expected to win gold.
“Not really,” she said. “I thought that I was going to end up on the podium, hopefully. That was my best result that I was hoping for.”
But Boyd said he knew she had a good shot.
“I’ll be honest, yeah,” he said. “I knew we were peaking at the right time.”
Wednesday’s gold is the second medal in two days for the Ski and Snowboard Club Vail coaching staff. Club athlete Ayumu Hirano, 15, of Japan, won silver in Tuesday’s men’s halfpipe.
“Obviously I’m proud of it,” Boyd said. “We’re probably not the program that’s going to go out there and toot our own horn. I’ve got a really good staff and great support from (Executive Director) Aldo (Radamus) and the guys at the club. I just think we care. We really care about our athletes, and that’s what it says.”
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