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Jan. 27, 2002 (AP by Rob Gloster) — It turns out Picabo Street still has a chance — albeit a slim one — of defending her super-G Olympic gold medal.
Street, the only American to win an Alpine skiing medal at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, officially finds out Monday whether she’ll be on the U.S. super-G team at the Feb. 8-24 Salt Lake City Games.
Street had such poor super-G results during the World Cup season that she failed to clinch an automatic berth on the U.S. team in that event. The rosters for the U.S. men’s and women’s ski teams will be announced Monday.
She already is assured of a spot on the U.S. squad for the Olympic downhill, her best race and the event in which she won a silver medal in the 1994 Games.
Even though Street said her 33rd-place finish in a race Friday in Italy was “my last super-G,” there’s still a remote possibility she’ll leapfrog a pair of U.S. skiers with better results and be selected to the squad.
Kirsten Clark, Caroline Lalive and Jonna Mendes all clinched spots on the U.S. team for the super-G by finishing in the top 10 of a World Cup race this season.
Based on U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association guidelines, the top contenders for the fourth U.S. spot in super-G would be Katie Monahan, who has two top-20 finishes this season, and Julia Mancuso, whose 22nd-place finish Friday is better than anything Street has managed.
But USSA rules state that three skiers will be picked for each event based on objective criteria such as competition results, and that “coaches’ discretion must be limited to no more than 25 percent of total named team.”
That means the fourth spot could be based on more subjective criteria, such as Street’s position as defending champion and the obvious interest fans — not to mention broadcaster NBC — would have in her skiing in two events in Salt Lake City.
Street, who has struggled on the slopes since ripping up her right knee and shattering her left thigh in a World Cup race in 1998, said Friday that downhill “is more natural for me.”
She has two top-10 finishes in World Cup downhills this season.
“There are certain risks that you have to take in super-G that I’m just not ready to take,” she said.
But U.S. team selectors also know that Street cannot be counted out of any race. She won her super-G gold medal in 1998 just 14 months after tearing ligaments in her left knee, and only a couple of weeks after suffering a concussion in another skiing accident.
Already assured of a spot in the Olympics is Kristina Koznick, a Minnesotan who trains independently of the U.S. team. She will be the U.S. women’s skiing squad’s top medal contender.
Koznick has a win and a pair of second-place finishes in World Cup slaloms this season, and stands a good chance at a medal in that event. Her victory — actually a tie for first place — came eight days ago in Germany.
“I think after what happened to us on Sept. 11, every American will be cheering for me,” she said. “I’m trying to plan it so I can peak for the Olympics going home in February. I think I’m right on track.”
Bode Miller has been the top technical skier in the world this World Cup season, and his selection to lead the U.S. men into the Olympics will come as no surprise.
Miller has three slalom wins and a giant slalom victory on the World Cup circuit, and is the only legitimate Olympic medal contender for the men in Alpine skiing.