Picabo Street can be called many things, from a "skiing phenomenon" to a "Brat" to an "Amazing Super-G Downhill Force." Street, one of the greatest downhill skiers in U.S. downhill women's history, accumulated an
incredible collection of World Championships and Olympic medals in her short career before choosing to retire in 2002. Her can-do attitude and willingness to speak her mind brought popularity to the women's downhill, and Street's good-natured outlook on life and girl-next-door face made her the hero of many young women who also want to do more than just succeed in life and, as Street has said of her own desires as a child, not only "be as good as the boys … [but] be better. "
Picabo Street was born on August 3, 1971, in Triumph, Idaho, located near Sun Valley, some of the best skiing in the state. Her parents are self-confessed hippies, and her father, Roland Wayne Street (who also goes by "Ron" or "Stubby") and mother Dee were liberal in their views about raising children, and gave their children the freedom to pick their own names. Picabo—who actually did enjoy playing the game peek-a-boo when she was a child—did not have a name for several years. Her birth certificate simply listed her as "Baby Girl." The name "Picabo" actually comes from a nearby Indian town and means "shining waters" or "silver creek," and was finally chosen when the Streets needed something to put on a passport when they traveled to Mexico.
Street began her career as a downhill racer at an early age, taking to the slopes when she was not yet in high school. Her father (a stonemason) and mother (a music teacher) were not able to afford the best and most up-to-date ski equipment, but this did not deter Picabo. She consistently beat kids who were much older and much wealthier than she was, learning to fight back early and developing her tough attitude in order to deal with their derisive comments. After all, Street was a young girl—with hippie parents and low-grade equipment—who showed up at competitions and easily beat older kids. They were not happy about it.
Not Amateur For Long
The regular rich kids on the slopes would not have to put up with Street for long. When she was 15 she joined the U.S. junior ski team, and soon won the National Junior downhill and Super Giant (Super G) slaloms. The coaches decided to move her up the next level, and she started training with the U.S. ski team in 1986.
No one could deny Street's natural ability, but for too long she had relied on that and only that, failing to heed authority. This often got her in trouble. Picabo stayed out late, spoke without thinking, and all too often ignored the coach's curfew. In 1990 she was suspended from the team for her attitude. That, and the fact that she showed up to training camp overweight and out of shape.
Her father encouraged Picabo to head down to Hawaii with him to train, convincing her that she could easily get back up to where she was, or become even better. She agreed, and in what Newsday reporter Tim Layden referred to as a "boot camp," Street shaped up and came back ready to dominate once again.
In 1991 Street was fierce on the slopes. She became overall champion for the North American Championship series, earning a ranking of eighth in the world in 1992 after winning silver in the downhill combined at the world championships in Japan. She also earned second place at the World Cup downhill in Norway, and later won the gold medal at the U.S. Alpine Championships. Throughout the first half of the nineties, Street stair-stepped her way up in the rankings, moving from 65 place all the way into first (in spite of the fact that she was consistently in trouble with her coaches for her continued questioning of authority). At only 22, Street fulfilled one of her dreams by medaling in the 1994 Olympics and earning silver in the downhill. After the Olympics, she continued her stellar ways that season, becoming the first American to win the World Cup women's downhill, taking six out of the nine races she participated in that season.
Plagued by Injuries
Though she would continue to add some phenomenal victories to her accomplishments (she repeated at the World Cup the following year, and won a gold medal in the Super-G in the 1998 Winter Olympics), Picabo's career was soon hampered by a string of injuries. When she crashed in December of 1996, she tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments of her left knee. She also pulled her calf muscle off the bone and broken her femur. Following a 1998 Olympic gold medal, she crashed yet again, in January, and though she did not sustain any major injuries, was bruised badly and was unconscious for several minutes.
|1971||Born April 3 in Triumph, Idaho|
|1978||Started organized racing because she wanted to "race the boys"|
|1985||Lands a spot on the U.S. junior ski team—she's fifteen years old|
|1986||Moves up to work with the U.S. ski team for the 1987-88 season|
|1988||Wins the national junior downhill and Super G titles|
|1989||Joins U.S. Ski Team|
|1990||Suspended from the team for her attitude and her tendency to stay out past curfew and falling out of shape|
|1991||Returns to the U.S. ski team in better shape and with a better attitude|
|1992||Ranked eighth in the world, Picabo is the U.S. ski team's top racer|
|1993||Takes the World Championship silver medal in combined downhill and slalom in Morioka, Japan (also wins gold at U.S. Alpine Championships)|
|1994||Earns her first silver medal in the downhill at Winter Olympics|
|1994-95||Becomes the first American to win the World Cup women's downhill championship|
|1996||Captures the World Cup women's downhill for a second time|
|1996||Suffers a serious knee injury in December after crashing on a course|
|1998||Brings home gold medal for the super giant slalom (Super G) after slowly recovering from her injury and returning full strength in time for the games|
|1998||Breaks her left femur in March in final World Cup race of the season. Suffers several other injuries following her broken leg. She is out of action for 33 months|
|2001||Kicked off the slopes at Copper Mountain for skiing too fast on an intermediate run|
|2001-02||Leading downhill qualifier for U.S. Olympic ski team|
|2002||Retires from competetive skiing after finishing 16th in Women's Olympic downhill|
Awards and Accomplishments
|1991||U.S. Championships (3rd)|
|1993||U.S. Championships Super-G (1st); U.S. Championships Combined (2nd); U.S. Championships Downhill (3rd); World Championships Combined (2nd); World Championships Downhill (10th)|
|1994||U.S. Championships Downhill (1st); U.S. Championships Super-G (2nd); Olympics Downhill (2nd); Olympics Super-G U.S. Championships Downhill (1st); U.S. Championships Super-G (1st); World Championships Downhill (1st); World Championships Super-G (3rd)|
|1998||Olympics Super-G (1st); Olympics Downhill (6th)|
|2001||U.S. Championships Downhill (2nd)|
In March of 1998, Street crashed yet again, this time breaking her leg in nine different places. The injury was
severe enough to put her out of competition for over a year, as well as force her to endure several painful operations. She vowed to come back, however, and after another dedicated few years of training, qualified for the 2002 Olympic Games.
In February of 2002, after a disappointing 16th place finish in the Women's Olympic Downhill, Picabo Street put away her competitive skis at the age of thirty and opted instead for a more laid-back life, all things considered. "I'm not going to have to live without skiing," she told the BBC news. "I'm just going to have to live without trying to be perfect on my skis every day, which is wonderful."
Street is a role model for many young women. She told Great Women in Sports that "Sports are an avenue to be happy with myself. And that's why I do the media I do," she said, referring to her appearances not on Letterman and Leno but instead on Sesame Street and other children-oriented programs. "It's important," she continues, "for girls to see bigger women with strong opinions, who are also sensitive and vulnerable. I want to tell them, 'You can be a strong athlete and still be feminine.'"
Address: Office—c/o U.S. Olympic Committee, 1750 E. Boulder St., Colorado Springs, CO 80909-5724; c/oU.S. Ski Team, P.O. Box 100, Park City, UT 84060.
SELECTED WRITINGS BY STREET:
(With Dana White) Picabo: Nothing to Hide. McGraw Hill, 2001.
Dippold, Joel. Picabo Street: Downhill Dynamo. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1998.
"Picabo Street." Great Women in Sports. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1996.
"Picabo Street." Newsmakers 1999, Issue 3. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 1999.
Street, Picabo and Dana White. Picabo: Nothing to Hide. New York: McGraw Hill, 2001.
Chicago Tribune (February 21, 1994; January 26, 1995).
Cooper, Christian. "Picabo Rules." Skiing (September 1995): 102-107.
Farber, Michael. "All World." Sports Illustrated (February 26, 1996).
Farber, Michael. "Playing Picabo." Sports Illustrated (December 18, 1995).
Layden, Tim. "Street Fighting." Sports Illustrated (February 23, 1998).
Los Angeles Times (March 14, 1998; January 8, 1999).
"Making a Rainbow." Sports Illustrated (March 27, 1995).
New York Times (February 24, 1999).
Redbook (November 1995).
Reece, Gabrielle. "Picabo." Women's Sports and Fitness (November/December 1998): 70-73.
Reibstein, Larry. "The Golden Girl." Newsweek (February 23, 1998): 46-48.
Skiing (September 1994; September 1995; September 1996; October 1992; December 1996; February 1997; Octover 1997; November 1997; November 1997; February 1998).
Time (February 1998).
"Picabo Street." Athlete Bio on U.S. Olympic Ski Team Website. http://www.usolympicteam.com/athlete_profiles/p_street.html (January 23, 2003).
"Picabo Street." Washington Post Olympics Page on Street. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/sports/longterm/olympics1998/sport/profiles/street.htm (January 23, 2003).
"Street Hangs Up Her Skis." News of Street's retirement. http://news.bbc.co.uk/winterolympics2002/hi/english/alpine_skiing/newsid_1817000/1817370.stm (January 23, 2003).
Sketch by Eric Lagergren
Where Is She Now?
Since retiring, Street continues to spend much of her time on the slopes. She just chooses to ski a little slower now. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her parents, where she works with the Women's Sports Foundation, a nonprofit organization that encourages young women to become active in sports.
"Street, Picabo." Notable Sports Figures. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/sports/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/street-picabo
"Street, Picabo." Notable Sports Figures. . Retrieved August 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/sports/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/street-picabo