Val d’Isere, France, Dec. 6, 2000–Olympic champion Picabo Street (Park City, UT) made her comeback Wednesday,completing the World Cup super G in Val d’Isere as the crowd and the race announcer greeted her with a rousing’Welcome Back, Picabo,’ as she skied into the stadium.
Street, the top American in the start list, went out 34th and skied into 28th place. She and teammate JonnaMendes (Heavenly, CA), who started 44th and tied Street, later dropped back out of the top 30. “I was veryemotional today — I was close to crying,” said Street in the finish area. “I remembered my first World Cup 10years ago and it brought a lot of emotion. But once I was able to cool down and get it together — while I wasgoing down the course — all my good memories of the past came back. I realized again how much I love ski racing.”
It was the first World Cup, or competition at any level, for Street since March, 1998 — just weeks after herOlympic gold — when she crashed hard into a fence in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, fracturing a femur andrupturing ligaments in her knee. After a series of operations, Street came back to full-time training this summer.Her return was slightly delayed with minor arthroscopic knee surgery Nov. 14.
Having been out for two full seasons, Street’s starting position in the World Cup had eroded, putting her in theunusual position of starting outside of the top 30. “It was difficult for me to wait at the start,” she said.”Normally when you’re part of the first group you go right away. But I had a high start number today so I had towait.”
Val d’Isere marked the comeback for three of the sport’s greatest stars. In addition to Street, Austria’s AlexandraMeissnitzner returned after a Nov. 1999 knee injury to finish seventh. Sweden’s Pernilla Wiberg, who injured aknee last December, returned to finish 23rd.
While Street was in good company with the likes of Meissnitzner and Wiberg, there were many new faces sinceshe last was on the World Cup. “It was quite difficult to be with all these racers I don’t really know, having beengone for two years,” she said.
Street is next expected to compete Dec. 16-17 in St. Moritz, where she is scheduled to race in her first downhill.
“It may take me a while to come back, but I’m working on it,” said Street. “I’m going to take a short break, thentrain at St. Moritz for the downhills. And I hope to get a chance over the holidays to ski a few days at Snowbasinto get used to the Olympic course.”
Street was the 1995 and 1996 World Cup downhill champion, and took the World Championship in that event in1996 in Sierra Nevada, Spain.