SOCHI, Russia: Kaitlyn Farrington restored a little bit of luster to Team USA’s Winter Olympics on Wednesday, taking back U.S. supremacy on the halfpipe that Shaun White and friends lost the night before.
Farrington edged defending champion Torah Bright of Australia and American teammate Kelly Clark to win gold in the final at an almost tropical Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. Farrington posted a score of 91.75 during her second run, just good enough to beat Bright’s 91.50.
Clark, who smacked the wall during her first run of the finals, recovered to earn bronze and win her third Olympic medal.
“I fought to get in finals,” Farrington said. “I did all three rounds. To come out on top, I couldn’t believe it.”
Farrington, who grew up in Idaho and now lives in Salt Lake City, had spent most of the run-up to the games playing second-fiddle to Clark, the 2002 Olympic champion. The 24-year-old had to navigate the semifinals to reach the medal round before responding brilliantly to edge two of the sport’s greats.
On a halfpipe looking more like a bowl of mashed potatoes than the icy track necessary to put on a top-notch show, Farrington survived. She was second behind teammate Hannah Teter after the first round of finals, then put together her finest work of the day to top the leaderboard. Farrington connected a backward 720-degree (2 turn) spin with a backward 900-degree (2½ turn) spin, one of the most technically demanding sequences of the night.
There were hugs all around when she finished and her score flashed, though she was forced to watch two of the sport’s best riders take one final run to try and win their second Olympic gold.
Bright, who has rarely competed the halfpipe since winning gold in Vancouver to focus on other events, put together a more athletic run but also bobbled ever so slightly during one transition between jumps.
The 27-year-old — who competed in women’s slopestyle snowboarding over the weekend and will race in snowboardcross on Sunday — danced while she waited for her score and hardly seemed bothered when it came up just a quarter-point short of Farrington.
“It doesn’t really matter the color of the medal,” Bright said. “We’re here, united, we’re shredding babes.”
That left Clark, who fell six times during practice before going down once in qualifying and again during her first run of the finals. She was about halfway through her routine when her back slammed into the edge of the pipe.
She somewhat gingerly finished, but it put all the pressure on her as she stood atop the hill for her second run.
Clark is easily the most physically gifted rider in the world, with an ability unparalleled among women riders to get the speed and air time necessary to pull off the most dangerous tricks. Like Bright, her final run was clean except for a split-second case of the wobbles.
She sat next to Farrington as the judges deliberated. As the moment dragged on, the friends got by with nervous chatter.
When Clark’s 90.75 was posted, Farrington lifted her arms into the air in celebration while all three of the medalists danced.
Clark and Farrington’s home country, meanwhile, surely breathed a small sign of relief.
The victory gave the U.S. just its third gold medal of the games, all coming on a snowboard.
In other news:
The gold market enjoyed big gains at the Sochi Olympics on Wednesday, getting an unexpected boost from the women’s downhill.
Tina Maze of Slovenia and Dominique Gisin of Switzerland were declared co-gold medalists, the first time in Olympic Alpine history a race was won in a tie.
On a day that had little to do with winter — temperatures hit 63 degrees (17 C) — the two friends covered the 1.69-mile (2.7-kilometer) Rosa Khutor course in 1 minute, 41.57 seconds. A tearful Lara Gut of Switzerland won the bronze, 0.10 seconds back.
“I’m sure glad I’m going to share this gold with Tina,” Gisin said.
The favorites, Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany and Julia Mancuso of the U.S., were afterthoughts. Hoefl-Riesch, eyeing a record-equaling fourth Olympic Alpine gold, finished 13th while Mancuso was eighth.
Five other sports awarded gold medals on Day 6 of the Olympics: figure skating pairs, luge, Nordic combined, snowboarding and speedskating.
Among the other gold medalists were speedskater Stefan Groothuis, who added to the mighty haul of the Dutch at the oval; Eric Frenzel of Germany, who has been the steadiest in Nordic combined the last two years.
Gisin is becoming an old hand at these kinds of outcomes — two of her three downhill victories have been ties. She also is having a far better Olympics than the one in Vancouver, where she went tumbling and airborne in the downhill. This was Gisin’s first major medal. Maze won two silvers in Vancouver.
Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov maintained Russia’s long tradition in pairs, winning gold in their home Olympics. Teammates Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov took silver. Russia or the Soviet Union had won gold in 12 consecutive Olympics in the event before the streak ended four years ago.
The Dutch ruled at the oval again, with Groothuis taking the gold in the 1,000 meters and upsetting two-time Olympic champion Shani Davis of the U.S. Groothuis won in 1 minute, 8.39 seconds and was followed by Denny Morrison of Canada and 500 champion Michel Mulder of the Netherlands. The Dutch have won 10 of 15 medals through the first five events. Davis was eighth, denied in his bid to become the first man to win the same speedskating event at three consecutive Olympics.
Sweden showed off its deep offensive talent in its Olympic opener, getting two goals from Erik Karlsson and one from Henrik Zetterberg in a 4-2 win over the Czech Republic. Switzerland also won, but needed a late deflection to beat Latvia 1-0.
Frenzel, who served two years in the German army, won the individual normal hill. He led after ski jumping and powered home on the cross-country course. Frenzel, the runaway World Cup leader, was followed by Akito Watabe of Japan and Magnus Krog of Norway.
China’s curlers kept up their surprise run by beating Switzerland and Germany, leaving the team at the top of the standings with four consecutive wins. With Sweden (3-1) losing to Denmark 8-5 in the evening session, Norway (3-0) is the only other unbeaten team in the competition after defeating Germany 8-5 in the morning. On the women’s side, undefeated Canada downed Britain 9-6 in a game that went down to the final stone and sent the U.S. to the edge of elimination. The Canadians joined Switzerland in first place at 3-0.