Beaver Creek, CO, Nov. 12, 2001--The top alpine women on the U.S. Ski Team feel the experience of the '98 Olympics, coupled with the experience gained in World Cupracing since then, will pay big dividends this season. Picabo Street (Park City, UT), looking to be the first U.S. racer to win three Olympic medals, says one of her big goalsis to see one or more of her teammates collect an Olympic medal.
The comments came Thursday during a press conference and breakout interviews with national, state and local journalists involving A Team women at The Pines Lodgeduring the Ski Team's traditional, final preseason training camp in Colorado. The women are training at Loveland Ski Area and Copper Mountain before a scheduled returnto Beaver Creek in the next week.
"I definitely go into this season with a new sense of confidence and with high expectations, so I'm looking forward to these Olympics," Caroline Lalive (Steamboat Springs,CO) told reporters.
"Ninety-eight 1998 I kinda went more for the experience, and a great experience it was, being in Japan. This year, I'm really excited to be here on my home turf, and I'mshooting for a medal. Hopefully," she said, "with my experience and confidence, I'll be right in there."
Picabo: "...sweaty palms..."
Street, the reigning Olympic super G champion who returned to the World Cup last season after two years recovering from multiple leg injuries, said, "For me, the mostimportant thing I think that's happened to me in the past year is I've become a teammate again. I have a very strong team and a very compassionate team. It's somethingI've dreamt of my entire career and never had -- and it's really, really great for me to have it, even if it's only for one last year.
"It's really fun to have a big, strong team, to be on the hot spot with sweaty palms, stressing about whether or not I'm gonna make the Olympic team because I've got a hotteam to compete against," she said.
Kirsten Clark (Raymond, ME), who won her first World Cup race last season (downhill in Lenzerheide, Switzerland) and also became the first U.S. skier -- male or female --to win four straight U.S. DH championships, said a large part of any success is learning a race hill and then conquering it. "Back in ;98 we were all pretty young and I think itjust takes time, being on the World Cup circuit. Each year we go back to the same sites, we go back to Lake Louise, to Val d'Isere, to Cortina. We go back to a lot of placesand the more years you go back to those places the more comfortable you get, and I think it's that sort of experience.
"In Japan in '98, we were all fairly young and just sort of coming out on the World Cup circuit and then finally the last four years, up 'til now, we've been there, going backmore and more, and gain that experience on the hill and off the hill, both mentally and physically. And I think it's just sort of putting us into position for Salt Lake."
Monahan, Mendes Returning
Also taking part in the press conference: Katie Monahan (Aspen, CO), who is healthy and regaining her touch after knee problems sidelined her for the past two season;Sarah Schleper (Vail, CO), who had a top-3 finish in slalom and another in GS last season; and Jonna Mendes (Heavenly, CA), who said she was "90 to 95 percent" healthyafter breaking a bone in her right foot and figured she would be up to speed by the end of November when the first downhill and super G races are scheduled (Nov. 29-Dec.1) at Lake Louise, Alberta.
Schleper: "Jonna and Caroline and I made the team the same year, and we've been pulling each other up the whole time. It's been a lot of hard work. We've trained so manydays and taken so many runs just for those previous hundredths of a second in a race run. ... I think when the Olympics comes around in Salt Lake it's kind of a feelingwe've all been waiting waiting and it's going to be a totally new energy. Like Picabo was saying, all of us want too put on a little show and that's what we're gonna do."
Street: "I think as a team we're going to find it very easy to take complete advantage of the home turf advantage that we'll have and the hometown crowd. I don't get nervouswhen my parents come watch me race and I don't think anybody up here on the dais does...and I think it's going to be huge for us. ... I'm really glad I'm gonna be done onthe 18th so when these guys compete in the slalom, I'll be just 'Rah, rah' cheering for them and be able to be there when they have their first moments on the podium in theOlympics because it's huge. I've been there and I know what's gonna happen..."
Monahan (Discussing the patience she needs in her return): "I'm sure Picabo would say the same thing - the most difficult thing about coming back from an injury is to beable to handle what you expect from yourself every day on the hill, to be able to handle that you're not going to be as fast as someone who skied a full year on the World Cuplast year and was winning races. It's natural for an elite athlete to have those expectations and those dreams and those desires when you first come back from an injury.You have to deal with it, basically, every single day. And every single race. ... You want so bad to be the best you can be and you want it yesterday. But to have to take thesteps, you have to make the progressions."
Lalive: "...This year I have a feeling like I belong there and I can hang with the top girls -- and I'm one of them. It's a terrific feeling. ...Skiing is so much mental, so having thefeeling you're 'there' and you're one of the best, it's an awesome thing. It's taken four years. So having the name 'The Rising Stars' or 'The Up-and-coming Young'ns' andfinally to be no longer a 'rising star' but hopefully be 'there,' and hopefully continue to rise, is a good feeling."
Mendes: "We all sat down in Alaska after Japan in '98 and made up goals for the next five years ... For me, each year has kind of taken a step up the ladder and made theyears up to it count as well as the Olympic year. ... When people said we were potential medal contenders, and that we were Olympic medal hopefuls, we've kind of beenproving them right, that we're capable of it, at least...and I think we're gonna prove it when Salt Lake comes around.
Clark: Her victory was a great confidence booster. "To know I can do it, and I have done it, is gonna help me through this year, to give me the confidence to keep workinghard and stay focused, and try to keep skiing faster," Clark said.