Nobody wanted to tell Kaitlyn Farrington’s story — until she made herself famous

Posted: 02/26/2014 in winter olympics, women's sports
Tags: , , , ,

Was doing some Internet pleasure surfing Wednesday and came across video of Winter Olympics gold medal winner Kaitlyn Farrington returning to her stomping grounds in Idaho earlier this week.

Unless you slept through the month of February, you probably learned about Farrington’s existence on the planet because she won the women’s half pipe final in Sochi. But had you ever heard of her say way, way back in January of 2014?

kaitlyn.farrington.gold.medal.winnerAs someone who has covered sports for a living for two decades, I had never heard of the young woman until after she won gold. In fact, I stayed up until 3:30 a.m. Boise time to see the taped-delay version of her winning gold and that is when I became enlightened.

NBC told us about her background and the fact that her parents sold cows to fund her trips as she became more advanced in the snowboarding world. Then you saw her happy-go-lucky attitude, her smile and just genuine impressive nature and you couldn’t help but be impressed.

I took to Twitter to tell Wheaties that Farrington should be one of the Olympians who lands a Wheaties box cover. Her story from farm girl in small-town Idaho to Olympic gold medalist is the type of story journalists live to tell.

Except there was nobody interested in telling it way, way back in January of 2014.

That point was drummed in by Farrington herself at a press conference in the Sun Valley area and I watched the clip multiple times. Her words really resonated with the journalist inside me and her point is more than valid.

“It’s been amazing to tell my story because nobody cared until now,” Farrington said with a smile and a hearty laugh. “So I get to walk around pretty much doing interviews and tell people how awesome I am. And it’s been really fun because nobody did care and now everyone is caring. It’s crazy because you can come from nothing and be at the top.”

Certainly, winning a gold medal catapults the amount of attention an athlete will receive. And obviously reporters are going to ask the pertinent background questions and paint the picture and tell the tale afterward because, well, now the story is a pretty easy one to write.

Even if an athlete simply makes an Olympic team, his or her story is well worth telling. I can remember covering the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Long Beach in 2004 and every single person from our coverage area who was in the event received the awesome opportunity to speak with me (heavy sarcasm font needed).

Heck, I even attended a swimming practice of a 13-year-old named Jessica Schmitt two weeks before the event. She had qualified in the 200 breaststroke and was in the same event as past Olympic medal winners like Amanda Beard and Staci Stitts.

Basically, the youngster had no realistic chance of making the Olympic team but just reaching an unheard of level for someone heading into eighth grade was a quite a feat and a story well worth telling.

Yet move forward nearly a decade later and newspapers are no longer a force. The industry decline was brutal and thousands of excellent journalists are now in other lines of work. Things like storytelling and enterprise reporting are a lost art.

So what happens is the niche sports suffer. Very little attention is paid to them in the first place and when staffs are cut and coverage standards drop, fewer of the hard-to-find stories are discovered.

Stories about people like Kaitlyn Farrington – a snowboarder – are still there to be found. It’s just that nobody is looking to find them.

The cool thing is we all know Kaitlyn Farrington now – I see her wearing a Cheez-It jacket so I know she has at least one sponsor – and she surely won’t sneak up on us when the 2018 Winter Games roll around.

There will be plenty of people lined up to interview her in January of 2018. Her rags-to-riches tale will still be a good one and the overwhelming storyline will be whether or not she can repeat as a gold medal winner.

Farrington is definitely enjoying the attention she is currently receiving and is certainly soaking in the moment. Sifting through her Twitter timeline, you can see she did a round of interviews in New York and attended the Daytona 500.

You know, stuff that wouldn’t have come her way back in the olden days of January, 2014.

The attention will die down over the coming months and Farrington’s life will regain some form of normalcy.

But you know, I’d actually be interested in hearing what Farrington’s life is like six months from now. But I fear there will be nobody poking around to tell us.

Then again, I’m probably due to make a drive from Boise to Sun Valley. So Kaitlyn, hit me up in July or August on Twitter @MrSportsBlog. We can do this storytelling thing right – and do it right here on this website.

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