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Playing Picabo
Michael Farber
December 18, 1995
Life is a game for the U.S.'s Picabo Street, the top woman downhiller, and she's winning
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December 18, 1995

Playing Picabo

Life is a game for the U.S.'s Picabo Street, the top woman downhiller, and she's winning

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"Stubby," Tiffany says, "isn't the easiest guy in the world."

No, Stubby wasn't easy. After he learned of Picabo's dismissal in a chance call to Major weeks later, he offered his daughter a choice: a) come to Maui and turn her life around, or b) hit the road.

Picabo chose Camp Stubby. He had her do 50 push-ups and 100 sit-ups before breakfast, run intervals, tread water until exhaustion and later do more push-ups and sit-ups. She crammed the equivalent of two years of school into three months.

The training put Street back on the team and was enough to get her the overall title on the jayvee Nor-Am circuit, but she wasn't about to cut into Jane Fonda's fitness video market. Major stopped by Sun Valley, where Dee and Stubby had moved, in the summer of 1991 and invited Picabo for a run. Halfway through the run he stopped and told her, "You're no better than a bowler."

Street was almost out of allies. Several U.S. coaches wanted her off the team because they thought she was lazy. Her Rossignol ski technician, Mike (Cookie) Kairys, recommended the company drop her because of her attitude, her lack of results and her penchant for blowing off steam in language that would make Big Bird molt. "She couldn't be trusted to get a pair of skis to the top of the mountain," says Kairys, now one of Street's staunchest supporters. "In Grindelwald [Switzerland] in 1991 or '92, she lost her skis."

Street never found the skis, but she did find herself. At the 1993 world championships in Morioka, Japan, she won a silver in the combined and was 10th in the downhill. At last something tangible was beside her name. The Lillehammer silver validated her, but the 1994-95 World Cup season and its six wins proved her greatness. Now, she says, "I know where I want to go, how to get to my track of destiny."

She has a way to go, but there's little doubt where she's headed, especially after tier season-opening downhill victory at Lake Louise on Dec. 3. "When Tomba retires," Stubby says, "Picabo's it." Picabo. She has made quite a name for herself.

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