Kaitlyn Farrington, halfpipe snowboarder, discusses journey from Idaho cattle ranch to Sochi Olympics
Kaitlyn Farrington is one of the brand new members of this year’s U.S. Olympic snowboarding team for women’s halfpipe. While she may not have the Olympic experience of some of her veteran teammates, the 24-year-old brings some technical riding to the mix and will be a medal contender in Sochi.
Growing up on a cattle ranch in Sun Valley, Idaho, Kaitlyn’s parents were determined to help her reach her dream of becoming a professional snowboarder – even if it meant selling a few of their cows. Read on to hear her tell the story to NBCOlympics.com and find out how this world-class snowboarder dials in her tricks.
Kaitlyn (middle) won the season's final U.S. Olympic qualifier - defeating even teammate Kelly Clark (left), a favorite for gold in Sochi. (Photo: USSA)
NBCOlympics.com: Did you have some family support as you were coming up in snowboarding?
Kaitlyn Farrington: My parents were really supportive as I started snowboarding. It was something that I picked up – my sister had snowboarded for a couple years. One time I decided I wanna be like my sister, so I'm gonna snowboard too instead of ski. And then I started getting into the competing from one of my friends – my best friend from high school. She was on the Sun Valley snowboard team, and she had convinced me to join. So I joined the Sun Valley Snowboard team, started competing and just really liked it.
Both my parents – it was new to them 'cause they were never into [snowboarding contests.] They were always skiers. They thought it was cool that I found something that I was so passionate about – outside of soccer. I used to play a lot of soccer, and I used to do a lot of swim team. But there was something in snowboarding that they saw that I was really passionate about. And so my dad supported me the whole way. He would sell his cows so that I could go on trips and it was just the way that it happened.
Every week before [a] snowboard trip – on Wednesdays, I think – was the cattle sales. We'd load a cow up into the trailer before I went to school, and he'd take it to the cattle sale and sell it. And that was my money to go on that weekend trip to go compete. We don't have any cows left after the whole thing happened. Both my parents were just so supportive and knew that I loved snowboarding so much. And so they wanted to see me do well.
Embedded video_content_type: Kaitlyn Farrington wins the women’s halfpipe
Did you have any family traditions around the Olympics, either watching them or a first memory of seeing the Olympics and thinking “that’s what I want?”
I think my first memory of watching the Olympics was watching Michelle Kwan figure skate. And I just remember, I thought it was so cool. She was [a] great figure skater.
But then I was on swim team from the time I was in third grade til I got a little older, through high school. And I used to love watching Michael Phelps, all the time. He was man of my dreams. [I] just loved watching swimming, and I always thought that I was gonna [go] to the Olympics for swimming. I think it was funny because me and my dad would always just sit down and watch the Olympics. It's something that was always on TV – as it was going on, our TV was on to the Olympics.
What kind of work off-the-snowboard do you do when you’re trying to develop a trick?
I do a lot of trampolining just to get my air awareness up a little bit and kind of, just get the feel for spins. And then, when we're on snow, I feel there's a lotta work – we’ll hike the pipe just constantly all day trying to do this one trick that we've been thinking about in our minds that we've decided that we wanna learn.
For me, this year, I wanted to learn backside 1080s 'cause I have backside [900s.] So, I was like, “I can do this.” And I remember just one day at the beginning of this season [at Copper Mountain,] I sat there and hiked the pipe for probably, like, three hours by myself. And it was end of the day, the light was going down, and people were like, "Kaitlyn, what are you doing? We're all done snowboarding." I was like, "No, I am gonna get this." And I sat there and hiked by myself as my coach was on the side with me and just kept going down. When I'd fall, I'd just be like, "All right, I'm goin' back up. I'm so close."
I think it's just a repetition thing – you just do a trick over and over and over again until it's built into your muscle memory and just keeps going. And finally, when you land it, it's the best feeling ever 'cause you're like, “I can do this.” But then you're like, “Well, I did it once, so I need to do it at least four or five more times just today so that I can make sure I can come back and do this tomorrow, another ten times, hopefully.”
Embedded owg_slideshow: Model Olympian: Kaitlyn Farrington
What else do you do to train?
In the springtime, we always have training camps. And we go and work on airbags. So they cut off both sides of the halfpipe at the end and put airbags there. You know your tricks that you wanna try into the airbag. And you just go up to the airbag, hike the airbag for hours and just keep doing that trick over and over and over again until you're like, “Okay, I think I've got this – I can take it to snow now.”
And then, that's what cool about the airbags – once you've got [the trick dialed] in an airbag, you can just hike up a little further and hit the side of the wall that you wanna hit and do your trick right out of the airbag. So, it's like the feeling's there – you have a lot more confidence because you've been doing it into the airbag. It's just that little adjustment that you've gotta make to take it to snow.
Kaitlyn executes a frontside 720 at the iON Mountain Championships in Breckenridge. (Photo: Alli Sports)
What other sports do you do in the offseason?
I started surfing about three years ago, loved it, but I don't live near any water and never really have my whole life to be able to do that. So whenever I can, I go surfing – like, I go to New Zealand every year. And after New Zealand, I'll usually just go to Australia for a little vacay and do some surfing.
I also took up golf last summer and really like golf. Both golf and surf are really humbling for me because I suck. It's just fun 'cause you get to go out there, and every day, you just get a little bit better. And you're like, "This is great." You're improving on something that you enjoy doing. So it's really fun, and it's really humbling to do.
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