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Olympic Gold Medalist Kaitlyn Farrington Gives Us the Inside Scoop On Sochi

Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 4.12.34 PM.pngFresh off her gold medal win in the Women's Snowboarding Halfpipe competition at Sochi, Olympian Kaitlyn Farrington paid a visit to PAPER HQ. The 24-year-old snowboarder, who hails from Sun Valley, Idaho but is now based in Salt Lake City, gave us the inside scoop about what it's really like to compete in an Olympics (pressure, parties, pin trading). She even let us hold her gold medal. Read on.

On getting to the Olympics:

I started skiing when I was three and started snowboarding when I was 11 or 12 because my older sister switched over to snowboarding and of course I wanted to be like her. She never competed but a good friend who was on the snowboard team in Sun Valley where I grew up said to me, "Kaitlyn you should join [the team] with me -- it's fun!" So I joined the team with her and started competing when I was a freshman in high school. When I was 17 I got the invite to join U.S. Snowboarding and I was on the rookie team. I got my first invite to the X-Games when I was 17. Then when I was 21, I decided I was going to quit the U.S. snowboarding team because I wanted to do something different and I wanted a different coach. So I quit and now I work with Ski Club Vail in Colorado. I had my own path to making the Olympic team [since I was no longer part of U.S. Snowboarding].

Starting in December and through mid-January we had five contests that were our Olympic qualifiers. It was back-to-back contests every week. Only two weeks before the Olympics, I found out I made the team and was going to Russia. It was also the week before the X Games so it didn't really sink in that I had made the team because I was thinking "I have to go to X Games." It was like, "Alright now the next contest... oh shit, I'm going to the Olympics."

On the Opening Ceremony:

The Opening Ceremony was insane. They lined us up under the stadium and we came up through the floor. We were seeing all the acts getting their costumes on down there. Everyone always talks about these pins at the Olympics that you trade with other athletes. I got so many pins that I even had to request more bags of pins so I could keep trading them. You're just hanging out and waiting to walk and that's where the pin trading really starts off. They had corrals for all the teams but we'd all venture off [to trade pins] and volunteers would be like, "No, no, USA come back this way!" It has also been tradition that the snowboarders get to walk in the back of Team USA and in the Vancouver Olympics, the hockey girls shut out the snowboarders from doing that, so we were all like trying to be in the back. That was a huge thing.

On those Ralph Lauren 'Christmas Sweater' Opening Ceremony uniforms:

[Feelings were] mixed but I freakin' loved mine. I'm going to wear that to every ugly sweater party -- it'll be my Christmas sweater for next December. I will wear that thing everywhere. But some people weren't into it as much.

On competing in the snowboarding halfpipe event:

It was 60 degrees up there and the pipe was really warm. There was so much snow on the bottom. The pipe had been really difficult. But [the day of the event], I was in the second heat and the first heat girls were like, "You're going to be so happy with how the pipe is" because it ended up being the best it had been since we'd been in Sochi. They'd figured it out - they pretty much took a fire hose and hosed the whole thing down to get it to freeze over.

[The way the event works] is there might be 20 girls in each heat and the top three girls from each heat go straight to finals. Then girls number 4-9 go to semi-finals. I didn't get [one of the top three spots] so I had to ride semi-finals. I think that worked to my benefit because I was more familiar with the pipe than the rest of the girls. The other girls [who went straight to finals] came back to the top of the pipe and were having difficulty because it went from being super slushy when we rode it in the daytime to starting to ice over because it was getting later at night. But I had the benefit of experiencing the changing conditions all day.

On realizing she might take home the gold:

After my first run I realized that I might be able to medal. After my second run, I got my score and was like, "This is awesome. I landed the run that I wanted to do at the Olympics. I've got nothing to lose." But I still had six more girls to come after me and three of them were previous Olympic gold medalists and favorites like Kelly Clark and Torah Bright. And after everyone started finishing I was like, "Oh my gosh, I'm still on top!" And Torah and Kelly were the last two and by the time it got to them, I was like, "Holy cow, I'm an Olympic medalist!" And after it was over it was like, "Holy shit, I'm an Olympic gold medalist." I didn't expect it. I also think a lot of other people didn't expect it either.

Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 4.11.06 PM.pngKaitlyn stops by the Paper office and shows us her gold medal -- damn, that thing is heavy!

On celebrating, Olympian-style:

After I won, I went out and danced my face off. There was this club called Sky Club that a lot of people would go to. It was pretty funny. There was three floors: the main floor was where a lot of Russians and other tourists would go to party, the second floor was a VIP area where the athletes got to go and then the third floor was actually a strip club. I don't know if any athletes went up there...maybe. It all felt very Russian. They had a few performances every night and it was just a fun place to go dance and party.

On athlete fraternization and the easiest/best Olympic pick-up lines:

I didn't hear anything about athletes using Tinder until a reporter asked me about it. It was like, "Wait, what? What are you talking about?" But everybody was there to meet new people and meet other athletes. You'd just be like, "Oh, you're badass!" And you could just go up to someone and be like, "Hey, this is my event. What do you do?" It was fun. People were asking me out on dates to the hockey games.

On #SochiProblems:

I wasn't staying in the athlete's village but athletes who were said the dorm rooms were super small and their food sucked. But the U.S. Alpine, U.S. Snowboard Halfpipe and U.S. Snowboard Cross teams stayed in a hotel because they didn't have enough room in the village for us. It worked out for us though because we got to have two chefs from the U.S. who came over and were in our hotel. So we had the royal treatment.

On the crazy security:

It was crazy to hear things in the media about how Team USA shouldn't wear our USA gear outside of the village or that we shouldn't hang Team USA flags on the athlete's village buildings. Every country had their flags hanging outside but Team USA's house was completely blank. I feel like everybody was a little timid [about the situation] the first couple of days but then we all realized, "Oh, this isn't so bad." There's so much security around and there's people everyone. Since we had the State Department there, they were saying how they knew where we were [at every second]. If we left practice early, they'd be like, "Where is this person? Why did they leave?" They had tabs on all of us. I never felt unsafe.

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