Picabo Street and Johann Olav Koss could easily have let their professional and Olympic success be the pinnacle of their lives.
But that wasn't compatible with the competitive nature in Street, the first American female skier to win an Olympic gold medal and World Championship, or Koss, a four-time gold-medal-winning speedskater from Norway.
Taking it easy -- or just playing golf -- was never part of his plan.
“It’s been a long time since I retired. That’s a lot of rounds of golf,” Koss told Playbook on Monday. “My life is full of challenges and has purpose. It’s no different than during my athletic career.”
Thursday, Koss will be honored at Claremont McKenna College in California with the Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership, which awards $250,000 to aid a non-profit organization of his choice. The money will be used to expand Koss’ group Right to Play, which now reaches more than a million children in Africa and elsewhere weekly with clinics and classes.
“It’s an incredible recognition of what sport can do to harness the power of the individual and change the most devastated communities around the world," Koss said. "The areas we serve always see tragedies -- now they see leadership and social change."
Right to Play teaches life skills to the children who participate, including cognitive, social and emotional abilities. “Whether it’s play as play or play as sport," Koss said, "we remind everyone that learning through play is a key factor in child and youth development."
Street’s many roles include being an at-home mom to four boys and serving as one of the 300-plus athletic ambassadors for Right to Play. She also has taken a life-long passion about preserving and elevating the role of sportsmanship and put it into practice through Liberty Mutual's “Responsible Sports Moments” program, which solicits and honors acts of sportsmanship submitted by the public via its website or using the hashtag #RSMoments. The top moments are chosen each month, with the 10 organizations honored annually each receiving $1,000.
Whether it's teaching girls in Uganda the importance of self-esteem, or promoting the constructive role of good sportsmanship, this type of work was a natural progression for both Street and Koss.
So where do these inspirations find their inspiration?
For Street, one recent example was Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL and decorated veteran who was murdered in Texas earlier this year. Kyle was one of the instructors on the NBC show "Stars Earn Stripes,” on which Street appeared and finished second last year.
“Chris was one of the most quality human beings I've ever met in my life, the kind of man who carried some awful memories and visuals in his heart,” Street told Playbook recently. “The only thing that brings me peace in his passing, is that he doesn't have to be there any more. He was an amazing human being. My life has changed forever knowing him. He wrote me a note saying, ‘You're a true champion and I'm better for knowing you.’ The feeling is so ditto. I can't wait to see him again.”
• Members of Muse did their best to swat the competition during SiriusXM’s “Alt Nation Ping Pong Throwdown” on Tuesday, showing their table tennis skills against the Alt Nation staff. One lucky follower of @AltNation posting the hashtag #PongNation won a pair of tickets for the group's show at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.
• An online auction sponsored by WWE through CharityBuzz that ended April 9 raised $524,742 for the Mayors Fund to Advance NYC and the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund. One bidder spent $33,215 for the opportunity to pitch a business idea to Mark Cuban. A live auction in New York held prior to Wrestlemania raised $75,000. “The overwhelming support from WWE and a host of celebrities is something that the people of New Jersey will never forget,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said in a statement.