Street Carves Gold Medal Win in Super-G
By Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 11, 1998; Page C1
NAGANO, Feb. 11 (Wednesday) It's not just that the so-called experts didn't expect American Picabo Street to ski well enough to win a medal at these Winter Olympic Games. Neither did she. Street, whose career has been full of surprises, pulled off perhaps the biggest surprise through five days of competition here when she earned the Olympic gold medal in the women's super giant slalom.
Street, from Sun Valley, Idaho, won a silver medal in the women's downhill in the 1994 Olympics but missed much of the 1997 season because of a knee injury. This week was the first time she'd even raced this course because she missed the '97 World Cup downhill on the same slopes in Hakuba while recovering from that injury. A concussion she suffered on Jan. 31 while racing in Sweden in preparation for these Games left her feeling "fuzzy" as recently as Sunday.
She didn't start very well on what turned out to be her gold-medal run, but used it to her advantage. "I made a mistake about midway through the course," she said, "and it made me mad and I just went for it."
Asked if she was surprised to win the gold medal, she said repeatedly, "Yes, I am ... I am ... Everyone comes to the Olympics to win a medal, particularly gold. But to look up there and see my name at the top of the list . . . I just don't know what to say. I'm frustrated because I can't even find the words."
After having a little more time to reflect on her accomplishment, she said, "It's unbelievable. [But] I don't have so much pressure on myself in the Super-G. I think some of the other people expect more of themselves in the Super-G than I do."
The night before, Street was concerned that she was in big trouble because she had drawn the second starting spot. Given the amount of snow that had fallen in Hakuba in recent days, it was very possible the course would be packed down and therefore would race faster for skiers who made their runs later in the competition. "I was really bummed about it, because it didn't look like a very good start number," she said. "But I'm happy about it now. It was the best start number in the world."
Seizinger said she thought the course was very slow when she came down, but added, "I cannot blame only that for my defeat. I expected Picabo to do well on this course. She's quite crazy and can be very good, especially in one-day races."
Surely, there will be less pressure on Street when she competes here Saturday in the women's downhill, which has been her strongest event. Ironically, she believes the fall she had two weeks ago probably helped her coming into the Olympics.
"I think I needed a big crash to get my mind off my knee," she said. "I'm not thinking about my knee anymore ... It's been a long year, so many ups and so many downs. I finally was able to get into form to attack the course."
When someone wondered how she was holding back tears of joy, Street said, "I've already cried. I stopped, I've cried, I've stopped. What a day. It's a dream come true for me."
One of the most popular of America's winter athletes, Street was constantly approached by well-wishers while she waited at the bottom of the mountain for at least a half-hour for the competition to officially finish. When another competitor offered congratulations and asked, "Can you do it again?" Street replied, "Yeah, sure!"
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