Tuesday, February 12, 2002
Street finishes 16th behind Montillet, then retires
SNOWBASIN, Utah -- Her finish was unremarkable, her
reception anything but.
Picabo Street kissed the ground before the final race of her
career, knowing it would all be over in about 100 seconds. And when
it was, she stood among the also-rans -- far behind surprise
downhill winner Carole Montillet of France, and just third best on
the U.S. team.
Yet it hardly mattered to the throng waiting to cheer a daring
woman known as much for her courage and spunk as her unusual name.
"This is the best day in my ski racing career and it's because
of you. Thank you," she said, grabbing a microphone in the finish
area and blowing kisses to the crowd.
"Everybody who cares about me can sleep at night now. Nobody
has to worry about phone calls at 3 a.m.," she said.
And with that, Picabo Street said goodbye to the Olympics and
The 30-year-old racer, completing yet another amazing comeback
from major injury, was trying to become the first American woman to
win three Olympic skiing medals.
Instead, she lost crucial time struggling to maintain balance
midway down a deteriorating Wildflower course and finished 16th.
"I kissed the ground at the top and I said to myself, `In a few
minutes I can retire,"' she said.
And so she did. That she was on the mountain at all was
A month after her victory in the super giant slalom at the 1998
Nagano Games, Street broke her left leg and mangled her right knee
in a crash and was off skis for 21 months. She has not won a major
race since then.
"No regrets whatever. If I were to die and come back tomorrow,
I'd do it all over again and I'd do it exactly the same," said
Street, who lives about an hour's drive away in Park City.
Montillet's victory, the first by a French woman in an Olympic
downhill, was a shocker. She has never won a World Cup downhill,
and her strongest event is the super giant slalom.
Her victory was salve for a French squad still mourning the
October death of team leader Regine Cavagnoud, who was killed in a
Isolde Kostner of Italy was second in 1:40.01, and Renate
Goetschl of Austria won bronze in 1:40.39.
The 28-year-old Montillet went to San Diego for a few days
before the Olympics, leaving the World Cup circuit, telling friends
she needed to get away from the repeated questions about Cavagnoud.
"I still think of Regine Cavagnoud and I will continue to do
so. She will always be in my heart and on my mind," said the
winner, who carried her nation's flag during opening ceremonies and
was wrapped in France's blue, white and red in the finish area.
Street marveled at Montillet's achievement.
"I cannot imagine having to ski losing any one of my
teammates," Street said. "I don't know if I could have done it,
to be honest."
Montillet, starting 11th, finished in 1 minute, 39.56 seconds.
She then watched, somewhat in shock, as the prerace favorites
failed to match her time.
First up was Hilde Gerg of Germany, whose body bobbed up and
down on the crunchy snow. Next was Kostner and then Goetschl.
Ten racers later came Germany's Michaela Dorfmeister, whose
coaches had picked a late starting spot hoping the course would
become faster as the snow melted and became icy. They guessed
By the time Street started from the 26th position, the course
was getting messy. The course was built for Street's gliding style,
but Mother Nature did not cooperate.
Street had been slated to start second Monday, when the race was
postponed because of high winds. The race was delayed another two
hours Tuesday by wind, and Street was hoping it would be postponed
"I wish the wind wouldn't have stopped blowing. I would have
had a better chance," she said. "It was colder and the snow was
harder in the morning. The sun changed the snow."
She got off to a good start, posting the best results at the
first two timing spots and quickly getting into the tight tuck
position that allows her to glide so quickly down mountains.
But she flew a bit high at the first of the course's jumps and
then struggled to maintain her balance as she left a trail of snow
in her wake. She also was too high off the second jump, losing
After she crossed the finish line, she stared at her time of
1:41.17 in disbelief and lowered her head, but quickly recovered
and blew kisses to the crowd.
U.S. teammate Jonna Mendes, starting two spots behind Street,
beat her by a fifth of a second and placed 11th. Another American,
Kirsten Clark, started 17th and finished 12th.
Street, who won silver in the 1994 Olympic downhill, will not
try to defend her Super G title later this week.