best local athlete
Snowboarder Kaitlyn Farrington, center, shows her Olympic gold medal to young fans in Ketchum in February 2014.
Photo by Willy Cook
Snowboarder Kaitlyn Farrington wins one more—albeit smaller—accolade.
Snowboarder Kaitlyn Farrington once had a coach who liked to give her one simple piece of advice: "Cowgirl up."
That's what Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Gold Team rider Farrington did in unexpectedly winning the 2014 Winter Olympics women's snowboard halfpipe gold medal at Sochi, Russia, last winter.
With the win, the Westminster College (Utah) student who grew up on a Bellevue-area cattle ranch joined an elite sorority of women's snowboard halfpipe gold medalists—in fact, she defeated the last three Olympic gold winners.
Now, voters in the 2014 Best of the Valley survey have chosen Farrington as the Best Local Athlete.
For years, Wood River Valley residents knew Farrington was excellent at her sport. But not until the victory in Sochi did anyone know how good she had really become.
"I was hoping to make the finals. I was hoping to make the podium. But I didn't expect to be on top," Farrington told NBC Olympics in an interview last February.
She added, "I used to do swim team when I was a kid and my coach used tell me to 'cowgirl up,' and it was just kind of this theme of everything. I grew up on a ranch in Idaho and so that's just the other girls' joke with me—to 'cowgirl up.'"
With her parents Suz Locke and Gary Farrington watching in delight, Kaitlyn captured the gold by edging defending Olympic champion Torah Bright, 27, of Australia, and American teammate Kelly Clark, 30.
After the Olympics, Farrington was welcomed back to the Wood River Valley by adoring crowds, honking cars, waving fans, hugs with coaches and friends, a key to the city of Bellevue, a police escort through the valley and a ride on a fire truck.
"My whole world has just changed," she said at a press conference at the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation office and training center in Ketchum. "It's been a whirlwind. It's been crazy. But I've been able to enjoy the moment. It is something very special."
Apparently, the Olympics performance and graceful acceptance of sudden stardom was special for many valley residents, too.