January 16, 2015

Kaitlyn Farrington, the American snowboarder who pulled off one of the biggest surprises at the Sochi Olympics, is retiring because of a degenerative spine condition.

The 25-year-old raised in Bellevue, Idaho, won the gold medal on the halfpipe last year, defeating previous champions Torah Bright and Kelly Clark.

Farrington, whose family sold livestock from their ranch to bankroll her career, fell while riding last October and went numb.

An MRI revealed she had congenital cervical stenosis, a narrowing of the spine that would leave her susceptible to paralysis if she keeps competing in snowboarding.

''It's taken me these few months to come to terms with my diagnosis and the fact that I must retire from competitive halfpipe snowboarding,'' Farrington said on Instagram.

Farrington said she wants to ride the snowboard, but her days of soaring over the halfpipe are over.

''I can walk. I can still snowboard,'' she said in an interview with ESPN. ''I just have to keep my feet on the ground. I still want to be a professional snowboarder, I just have to figure out what that means.''

She said the fall that led to her diagnosis came on a relatively routine jump, but she felt numbness and tingling from her neck down, and it lasted more than two minutes.

The MRI showed narrowing of the spine, a herniated disc and a kink in her spinal cord that made competitive snowboarding too risky.

The discovery ended any chance Farrington will have of an Olympic repeat. She called the timing ''crazy.''

''I had the highest high of my life to now this complete life-changer,'' she told ESPN. ''The next quarter of my life is going to be extremely different from the first. I have to figure out how to make it just as great.''

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