Entering the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, 24-year old Kaitlyn Farrington of Team USA hoped to ride well enough to just qualify for the women's halfpipe final, but she soared well above her own expectations by besting a star-studded field of hopefuls to take the gold medal in her Feb. 12 Olympic debut.
Farrington, who grew up on an Idaho cattle ranch, ranked second behind teammate and 2006 halfpipe gold medalist Hannah Teter following the first of two runs. Her second effort earned a field-best mark of 91.75, which bested that of Vancouver champ Torah Bright of Australia by .25 and earned her the top podium spot. Kelly Clark, who earned silver in 2010, came away with the bronze, while Teter finished fourth.
With four snowboarding events in the books, the United States leads the discipline's medal count with three gold and one bronze. The nation's other gold medal wins belong to Sage Kotsenburg and Jamie Anderson, who won the inaugural slopestyle events.
The American women's halfpipe success tempered the bitterness of a string of unfortunate Sochi outcomes for U.S. athletes. Farrington's win came just hours after speedskater Shani Davis and alpine skiier Julia Mancuso, who were both favored to win their respective Feb. 12 events, finished their respective contests --the men's 1,000 meter long track event and the women's downhill-- in eighth place.