Monday, February 11, 2002
Picabo makes her point
By Anne Marie Cruz
ESPN The Magazine
SNOWBASIN, Utah -- "She's gonna do it."
Picabo Street's young teammates all said it as they passed through the mixed zone on Sunday afternoon, phrasing it in the exact same way, as if brainwashed for a Manchurian Candidate tea party. Except instead of glazed, robotic responses, her heir apparents all wore laser-eyed looks of mathematicians flaunting completed proofs.
"No doubt, she's going to win," said Lindsey C. Kildow, the 17-year-old Minnesotan who'll race combined and possibly slalom. "It's her course, and she wants it -- badly. It's all a mental game, and there's no way she'll lose that."
Street's first training run Saturday certainly seemed to foreshadow things to come. She finished first on the treacherous Wildflower course, followed by fellow American, Caroline LaLive, whose fan base here in Utah includes eight Fijian tribesmen, who flew out to America specifically to see her.
Of course, Picabo's international rivals probably felt as out of place as the Fijians because Saturday was the first time most of them had seen the course, let alone even ridden a chairlift up to Snowbasin's peak.
So Street's seventh-place finish after the second training run Sunday might have made that No. 1 next to her name seem too good to be true. Especially because a glut of legit downhill champs finished ahead of her: Austrians Renate Goetschl (the overall World Cup champ last season) and Michaela Dorfmeister (the overall leader this season) finished 1-2, while reigning downhill world champ Hilde Gerg of Germany took fourth.
But as she approached the finish line, Street stood up out of her tuck, practically snowplowing to a stop before crossing. The meaning was clear: She nailed the course, and she had nothing to prove in a piddling training run.
Street said later she slowed up because she didn't want the press swallowing her up: "I didn't want to walk out of here with the heat on my shoulders like I did yesterday," she said.
Sure, she wasn't in the mood for tossing around soundbites. But Picabo suffocating under media pressure? Puh-leeze.
"It was definitely an intimidation move on Picabo's part," Kildow said. "She knows she owns that course. And everyone else knows it, too. That's why the Austrians were really going after it today. It may have seemed like they were fast, but it won't look like that tomorrow."
After Monday's postponement, Street will crouch into that trademark tuck position Tuesday for what could be the last race of her life. She will try to obliterate the taste of not defending her Super G gold by rocketing down the diamond-hard face of the Wasatch. Street plans to wow her hometown crowd and wrest another gleaming Olympic trophy to go with her silver and gold.
Tuesday? She's gonna do it.
Anne Marie Cruz writes for ESPN The Magazine.