The women’s halfpipe competition was touted as a showdown among the sport’s decorated veterans: three past gold medal winners, two from America and one from Australia.
Instead, a relatively unknown American topped them all.
Kaitlyn Farrington, 24, outperformed defending gold medalist Torah Bright of Australia, 2006 gold medalist Hannah Teter and 2002 gold medalist Kelly Clark of the United States on Wednesday, scoring 91.75 on a mistake-free second round final run.
A late addition to the finals — she failed to make the cut in qualifiers and had to prove herself in the semi-final round — Farrington made her gold-winning run before the higher-ranked former champions took their turns. But she seemed to sense something special. Immediately after she crossed the finished line, she began celebrating, hollering with excitement and doing a little jig on the snow.
Then she watched as Teter and Bright, both 27, and Clark, 30, finished their final runs. They came close, but failed to pass her.
Bright won silver with a 91.50 run. Clark took bronze with a 90.75.
Farrington had no championships going into the 2014 Games: nothing in the World Cup or X Games, and no prior Olympic appearances.
Now she is the third U.S. woman to win halfpipe gold in four Olympics (the other two being Teter and Clark).
Clark, meanwhile, won her third Olympic women’s halfpipe medal, a record.
With two women on the podium, the U.S. put its foot down after a rough stretch for the American snowboarding team in Sochi. On Tuesday, no Americans made the podium in the men’s halfpipe, not even defending two-time gold medalist Shaun White.
Part of White's poor performance has been blamed on the subpar conditions of the halfpipe, which many boarders criticized over the weekend. But on Wednesday, opinions had changed among the women.
“The pipe is riding the best it’s ridden yet,” Clark told NBC Olympics before Wednesday's competition.