Tuesday, February 12, 2002
Women's downhill back on schedule after delay
SNOWBASIN, Utah -- A pesky wind cutting through Mount Ogden delayed Picabo Street's Olympic moment.
No matter, she said. After what she's been through, another day of waiting would be no big deal.
The women's downhill, one of the most anticipated events of the Salt Lake City Olympics, was postponed Monday and rescheduled for Tuesday.
The event finally got going, after a delay of two hours and 10 minutes, with France's Carole Montillet setting a torrid early pace.
About 23,000 spectators made the trek up the mountain, most of them to cheer Street in the latest and last of her remarkable comebacks.
Street has moved to a big house in Park City, about an hour's drive away, and locals have adopted her as one of their own.
The stands at the finish line were packed well before the scheduled 10 a.m. start.
"Go Neighbor, Picabo Gold," one banner read. "Go USA, Go Picabo. We Love You," said another.
But the race never went off, and the big crowd had to make the long trek down the mountain, clutching the ticket stubs that would allow them to come back Tuesday. All Street could do was wave and smile.
"I know how hard it is to get up here, go through all that," she said. "I hope they come back."
She shrugged off the delay.
"I'm not too disappointed, it happens in skiing. We're pretty used to it on the World Cup," Street said. "Tomorrow they're expecting a good day with half the wind."
The wind was no gale, but troublesome nonetheless.
"It wasn't very bad, but the wind was changing all the time, so it wouldn't have been fair," said Isolde Kostner of Italy, one of the favorites. "One girl would have had wind, another wouldn't have had wind."
The 30-year-old Street could become the first U.S. skier to win medals in three Olympics. She won the silver in the downhill at Lillehammer in 1994 and a gold in the super giant slalom in 1998 in Nagano.
A month after her Super G triumph, she crashed at the World Cup finals, breaking her left leg and mangling her right knee.
The prospect of an Olympic farewell on home snow motivated her through her comeback, a process she was all to familiar with after blowing out a knee twice before.
Street will not defend her Super G title -- other Americans have far better results in that event this winter. The downhill was to be her Olympic farewell, and maybe the end of her skiing career.
She is retiring after this season but has not decided whether her last race will be the Olympic downhill. She may compete at the nationals in Squaw Valley, Calif., in March.
Street was to have been the second racer down the hill Monday. When the order was redrawn that night, she wound up in the No. 26 spot for Tuesday's race.
If the sun shines, a later starting position could be an advantage. As the race progresses, the sun melts the snow and then it freezes, giving the course an icy coating that makes it faster.
"It doesn't really matter. She's ready to go from any position," U.S. women's downhill coach Jim Tracy said.