Indestructible Street finds super-G force
Four years earlier in Lillehammer, the women's downhill had produced a new star. Making her Olympic debut, the USA’s Picabo Street had taken a surprise silver; now she was aiming for gold.
Since her breakthrough performance in 1994, Street had won a succession of World Cup downhills and had taken the overall downhill title twice, as well as enjoying success at the world championships. However, her winning streak was then cut short by a bad accident on the slopes in Vail, which saw her break a leg, and, more alarmingly still, a very serious cruciate ligament injury to her left knee. The rehabilitation was long and painful, and it cost her a year of competition.
Her confidence and determination never wavered. She even went to Japan to see the Olympic downhill course and, unable to ski herself, persuaded a coach to give her a piggyback as he skied down!
Her focus and faith were rewarded by a return to competitive racing in December 1997, 12 months and 13 days after her crash.
She soon regained her speed, but the bad luck lingered. Six weeks before the Nagano Games she was knocked unconscious in another accident. All things considered, Street might have been excused for feeling apprehensive as she returned to the Olympic stage, but she showed no signs of nerves whatsoever.
In the downhill she produced a very creditable performance, but there was no medal as she finished sixth. The main thing was that she had shown herself and the rest of the world that she was back in business.
In the super G, her old rival Katja Seizinger of Germany was most people's favourite to win after four successive World Cup titles. However, it was Street who set the early pace, skiing second and ripping down the course to cross the line in 1 minute 18.02 seconds, a time that none of the other leading challengers could match. Seizinger was 0.42 seconds slower and was destined to finish only sixth, while Street’s nearest challenger was the unseeded Austrian Michaela Dorfmeister, who started 18th but came down just 0.01 seconds behind the leader.