Val d'Isere, France, Dec. 7, 2000--Olympic super G champion Picabo Street (Park City, UT) returned to WorldCup ski racing Wednesday in a super G at Val d'Isere, France, in deterioratingsnow and flat light with an approaching storm. And although she was on herown skis and boots, Street raced in Caroline Lalive's helmet and assortedgear from other teammates as she waited - a third day - for her own luggageto arrive.
It was her first race at any level since she fractured her leftfemur and tore ligaments in her right knee March 13, 1998 at Crans-Montana,Switzerland - a month after winning the Olympic gold in Nagano, Japan. Shefinished 34th Wednesday and after a mob of interviews in the finish area,made her way back to her hotel where she spoke with the U.S. Ski Team'sPaul Robbins. Excerpts:
Nearly 33 months between races and then you return at the same place, Val d'Isere, where you cameback in December '97 after your left knee injury the year before. This must've been an emotional day.
"It was very emotional, a really strange day. Part of me says I raced my first World Cup again. I was like a kid withthese big eyes looking around and going 'Wow!' and 'What is this?'...but there was also so much baggage with thosefresh emotions today. All the good memories, too."
"I couldn't help but think how different I felt compared with how I used to feel on Race Day. I was really nervous, alittle unsure of what to expect - there was so much going on around me. I was distracted, for sure. I couldn't focuson my game. I wasn't as focused as I thought I used to be...it didn't come together like it usually did."
"And then as I got toward my start time No. 34 start, I started getting these anxious waves come over me and I hadto calm myself down..."
"I had to say out loud how nervous I was, had to tell 'Cookie' Kairys, her waxing tech and Sheri Woroschuk, women'sDH/SG team phyical therapist how I was feeling, that I was nervous. I tried to verbalize it, as if that would make itgo away."
"Once I got in the start, I got a knot in my throat and I started to cry a little, and I had to stretch my neck out toclear the knot and the tightness and to stop the crying..."
How was your racing?
"I skied all right. I wasn't aggressive enough, though. I didn't risk enough, didn't tuck enough. I wanted to ski clean,not make any mistakes. But when you do that, you wait for the course to come to you. I don't have my confidence yet,and confidence is what you need."
"It's not that I don't feel confident of myself physically, I guess, I do, but..."
You probably should be glad just to reach the finish under these conditions.
"Exactly. My own goal today was to make the finish and I did that."
The coaches (Head Coach Marjan Cernigoj, DH/SG Coach Jim Tracy) said you were more upright thanusual. It sounds like you raced with your head and not your heart, skied smart and cautious insteadof with your normal attacking flare.
"Absolutely. I raced totally with my head, not my heart. I didn't have it in me that you need to risk to win. I had somuch on my mind I couldn't even think about the light being flat. That wasn't in the forefront of my thinking. Therewere so many distractions. I had so many feelings it was hard to focus on my game. I totally skied with my head. Istood up more than I usually do. I just wanted to see where I was going."
It must've been a relief to hit the finish.
"It was the weirdest thing when I got to the finish. I just wanted to go away and cry, but nobody would let me go. Allthat waiting, all the stressing, all the uncertainty. I just wanted to let it go somewhere by myself..."
"I kept wanting to go somewhere to cry, but people kept putting a microphone or a camera in my face. My luggagestill wasn't here, so I wore everybody else's stuff - I had Caroline's Lalive helmet, 'Liner' was the only one with anextra helmet - and I put duct tape on it, and I put PARK CITY to indicate Park City Mountaain Resort where she'sdirector of skiing on it. Everything was so discombobulated."
"I'm hoping I don't experience that again in St. Moritz. If I do, I hope it's in the first training, so then I can tightenthings up and be more aggressive as the week goes on. It'll be a big help to have training runs on the course. I'll bemore used to race speed and turns and my body position."
What do you remember from your race? Anything?
"I can remember how I felt on every turn. I could walk you through every turn and every transition. In general, I wasjust riding my skis down the mountain and waiting for the course to come to me, and that's what can take you fromthe top 10 to the bottom 10."
And if you were to describe all of it?
Would 'rookie' be the word?
"Yeah, rookie or maybe rookie-with-baggage. If I took it to a spiritual place, it's as if something that had gone on ina past life and all the emotions from that moment were rushing over me today. I wasn't thinking about crashing orhurting myself. And I'm used to knowing what I'm going to do, but, yeah, maybe rookie because of the uncertainty andthe lack of focus..."
"I'm glad it's over. I'm looking to get my luggage..."
"It was a pretty big day. Cookie was pretty nervous - he tried to hide from me, but we've been together so long, hecan't hide that kind of thing. And I don't think the coaches were nervous; they trusted me. They knew this wouldhappen. It was almost as if they were smirking, waiting for me to go through it again and they weren't telling meabout something, but they were cool..."
Take a deep breath and exhale slowly.
"Oh man, I'll tell ya - there's a lot releasing in me. I'm exhausted. I'm flushing, I'm letting a lot of worry and stressand uncertainty flush..."
"I'm glad tomorrow Thursday is a day off...laughter...I'm gonna need it. I hope I can get out of bed."
Exit to more laughter