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Picabo Street - A Brief Moment in the Sun

Picabo Street - A Brief Moment in the Sun

Due to the rigors of training and the toll any sport takes on the human body, some athletes are simply unlucky and end up suffering from injuries for large portions of their career. This always seemed to be the case with American skier Picabo Street.

Despite her obvious talent, she was always getting hurt in some form or fashion, never living up to her full potential on the world circuit or in the Olympic Games. However, she fought hard to change that fate in the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. Fighting back from an injury, Street proved determination and instinct can lead to a gold medal.

Picabo Street

Born in Triumph, Idaho on April 3, 1971, Picabo Street is a former alpine ski racer who has won multiple titles over her career. However, the injuries she has accumulated outnumber her actual victories. Although Street has always been considered a great skier and was even a widely adored celebrity for many years, injuries always seemed to derail her intended goals.

Street was born to very liberal parents who actually let her choose her own name when she was old enough to talk. However, “little girl” didn’t work on a passport, so her parents were forced, on the spot, to give their daughter a name. They chose the name of a village near them, Picabo. So, if anyone was still wondering, Picabo is not a nickname. It is, however, a very memorable name and has played a large role in her celebrity.

Street’s Impressive Comeback and Gold Medal Win

In 1996, in preparation for the Olympic Games in Nagano and while on the world circuit, Picabo suffered a bad knee injury in Colorado. Only 2 races into the 1996/97 season, she would end up missing the rest of the season while recovering. In fact, when it was time for the Olympic competition, Street had only been racing for 8 weeks. It took her an entire year to recover from the injury, but only a few weeks to return to full form. She never missed a beat in her training, and she wanted more than anything to earn her Olympic medal.

Winning Olympic Gold had been Street’s mission since the Lillehammer Games in 1994. Though she had also been injured that season, she still ran a great race but lost the downhill to Katja Seizinger, a German skier. After hearing the German national anthem, Street vowed that the next time she took the podium, the American anthem would be playing. Silver was not good enough for Street – it was gold or bust in 1998.

These dreams seemed a little lofty after having suffered such a bad knee injury. Nevertheless, Street remained determined to capture gold at the Nagano Games. With one week to go before the competition, Picabo was in top form, ready to compete in the Super-G this go ‘round rather than the downhill. However, Street was injured yet again. She crashed, slid, and banged her head hard enough to lose consciousness. It was unclear whether or not Street could actually race, but she refused to take no for an answer.

Thankfully, Street got an extra day of recuperation when the Super-G was postponed due to heavy snowfall. By the time she took the course, she realized that it was as steep as a downhill course, and so she made the decision to wear downhill skis. This is a decision that would pay off, as even after suffering a mid-race error, Street was able to regain her composure and ultimately take 1st place in the Super-G, truly earning that gold medal she had so desperately wanted for years.

Picabo got her wish and sang along with the American national anthem on the podium. The rest of her career was plagued with injuries, including a snapped femur and a torn ligament, but Street’s 1998 story is undoubtedly one of the most inspiring in Olympic history.

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