America's downhill rebel is pushing for children's rights with the same passion she channeled into conquering the mountain
Posted: Tuesday June 26, 2007 4:50PM; Updated: Wednesday June 27, 2007 2:02PM
This Where Are They Now feature and others like it can be found in the July 2nd issue of Sports Illustrated.
On a crisp and sunny late spring day, only small patches of snow are still visible on the mountains cradling Park City, Utah. But the prospect of summer holds no melancholy for 36-year-old Picabo Street, the former downhill superstar. "I'm really into horses now," she says as she strides through the dining room of the Stein Eriksen Lodge at the Deer Valley resort, her strawberry-blonde hair pulled into a long ponytail. "This is a great season for them."
While Street has learned to project tranquillity with the equine set, away from the stables she still radiates the passion and purpose that drove her past numerous injuries to five international skiing medals, tying her with Cindy Nelson for the most ever by an American woman. In the five years since her retirement, Street has started a foundation, become a mother -- her son, Treyjan, turns three in August -- and embraced a new cause, the prevention of child abuse. And there are more projects on the horizon. "I'm just getting to a place where I'm ready to hammer it again," she says.
When Street left her native Idaho (she was named after the small town of Picabo -- derived from a Native American word meaning "shining waters") to hammer it in her first career, she made an indelible mark. After getting kicked off the U.S. ski team as a teen for her rebelliousness, she was reinstated a few months later and won a surprise Olympic downhill silver medal at Lillehammer in '94. For the next three years she dominated the sport, with back-to-back World Cup downhill titles in '95 and '96 -- the first American skier, man or woman, to win a season title -- and a gold medal in the downhill at the 1996 World Championships in Spain. "She had an intimidation factor," says 2006 Olympian Lindsey Kildow, who grew up idolizing Street. "She knew she was going to win, and everyone at the start house knew she was going to win."
Street's brashness didn't always endear her to teammates, but crowds loved her, and she loved them back. "The more attention she got, the better she'd do," says former U.S. women's coach Paul Major. Street's star rose so high and so fast that Nike made her the first winter athlete with a signature shoe.
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