It was another high-drama evening today with the culmination of the freestyle snowboard events at Sochi 2014. Definite underdog Kaitlyn Farrington snuck through the semi finals and bossed it when it counted in finals, unleashing an amazingly creative and technical run that saw her hold off Torah Bright, Kelly Clark and Hannah Teter.
Kaitlyn Farrington stuck a solid first run right off the bat, only to be bettered by Hannah Teter after the first runs wrapped up. Hannah put down a massive backside air and both frontside and backside 900s, seeing her comfortably in first place with a score of 90.50.
But it was Kaitlyn's second run shortly after that ended up the money maker (so to speak). It all came together like clockwork; with technical tricks, decent amplitude and bags of style to boot.
She started off with an air to fakie on the backside wall (a trick you really don't see all that often) before going straight into a switch backside 720 - one of the most tech tricks of the entire evening. She then went into backside 9, alley oop 540, backside 540 and inverted frontside 720.
Her run wasn't quite as big as some of the other ladies', but it was clean, stylish and undeniably technical. That run earned her a 91.75, first place and a nerve-wracking wait while she waited for 6 other heavy hitters to drop after her.
Queralt Castellet had been looking strong throughout qualifications but couldn't quite put down a run today in finals which was a shame - she was going pretty damn big.
That just left Torah Bright and Kelly Clark to drop. Torah is one of the most stylish halfpipe riders in the world and her second run was exactly that: massive mctwist, air to fakie, cab 7, frontside 540, frontside alley-oop 540 and backside rodeo 720. It was big and executed cleanly but arguably not quite as technical as Kaitlyn's. The judges took an age working out the score but at 91.50, she ended up short of Farrington by just 0.25 points.
And that just left one more lady who could change it all. Kelly Clark had messed up her first run and had it all to do in run two. As an American, and a truly dominant force in halfpipe snowboarding, it was all eerily reminiscent of the situation that Shaun White found himself in exactly 24 hours prior.
You could tell from Kelly's body language that she wanted it badly and her first hit - an astronomical frontside air, was proof. Her back 5 tail grab was solid but it was her famous front 10 (let's be honest, it's not the prettiest) that let her down today. She landed way down in the flat bottom, scuffed some speed and was simply playing catch up from then on in. She somehow maintained enough speed for a further cab 7 and front 5 but we knew it wouldn't be quite enough. She went massive on her hits but the flow just wasn't there.
Once again the judges took an eternity to make up their minds but eventually awarded Kelly a 90.75 - enough for third place.
It will have been another frustrating Olympic experience for Clark after dominating the women's halfpipe circuit and winning nearly every event that she has entered since being beaten by Torah Bright at Vancouver 2010 four years ago.
The real debate here will most likely surround Torah and Kaitlyn's scores, with Bright arguably having gone bigger and cleaner than Farrington. But whoever the critics deem the correct winner, the great thing about today's podium is that once again, stylish, creative snowboarding - the kind of riding that catches you off guard and gets you grinning and/or nodding solidly in approval, prevailed.
Air to fakies, mctwists, switch backside spins - the type of tricks that actually make you want to go snowboarding - were all catapulted into the spotlight, and that just has to be a great thing for snowboarding.
A massive congratulations to all three ladies.
Here are the full results, photos to follow shortly: