Picabo: Nothing to Hide [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Picabo Street & Dana White
eBook Category: Sports/Entertainment/People
eBook Description: The moment she burst onto the world stage at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, 23-year-old speed demon Picabo Street ignited a fire of excitement in the media and in the hearts of fans that continues to burn today. Free-spirited and outspoken, Street was a new kind of female athlete and a new kind of role model. Street followed her silver medal win with two straight World Cup downhill titles--a feat unmatched in American skiing--and finally, the ultimate Olympic gold medal win in Nagano in 1998. But success had its price. Just one month after her gold medal win, Street careened off course in a race in Switzerland, snapping her left femur in two, shredding the ligament in her right knee, and leaving her future in peril. Now, after two years of excruciating pain, grueling rehabilitation, and stunning personal growth, Street is making a comeback, ready to face the 2002 Winter Olympics and ready to tell her inspiring story. In this powerful, honest autobiography, Street shares her coming-of-age experience, revealing how adversity shaped a rebellious tomboy into a champion athlete and compassionate woman, in harmony with her family and at peace with her fear of failure. Here, for the first time, Street addresses the pressures exerted on her by her ski sponsors that may have been partly to blame for her terrible crash; the scandals surrounding the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee; and how she overcame a lengthy, debilitating depression. In the tradition of Lance Armstrong's It's Not About the Bike and Greg Louganis's Breaking the Surface, Picabo: Nothing to Hide is a poignant, intimate account of a woman forced to rebuild herself body, mind, and soul.
eBook Publisher: McGraw-Hill Companies/McGraw-Hill, Published: 2002
Fictionwise Release Date: October 2002
I GREW UP ON STORIES.
My family lived in a tiny community near Sun Valley, Idaho, called Triumph, population thirty-five. Our home was an old mining cabin with plastic taped over the windows and a hardworking woodstove for heat. We didn't have a TV -- my parents considered it a corrupting influence -- but we did have a stereo. This was the 1970s and early '80s. I could sing along to Fleetwood Mac, but Wilma Flintstone was a stranger to me.
So we had to entertain ourselves. At night, especially if we had company, Mom and Dad would throw a few sticks of kindling on the fire and talk. About everything: stuff that happened when my older brother, Baba, and I were babies, who was doing what in Triumph, how the workday went, and whatnot. My family called it "talking story." I'd be playing in another room and half listening to Dad -- he was the main storyteller -- holding court in the living room. Dad's stories were dramatic and always seemed to involve some ill-advised adventure or freaky brush with disaster.
For example, there's the story of the time I escaped death at the tender age of one. My parents and their friends loved exploring the mountains, long before that became a trendy thing to do, and they'd hike into the high country for three weeks at a time, packing kids and supplies on a horse or mule. After setting up camp, they'd tie a log to the animals to keep them from wandering. One day Mom and Dad were hanging out at a friend's campsite with Baba and me when the friend's horse went wild -- a bear must have spooked him -- and he came ripping through camp, dragging that log behind him. Mom threw herself over me, and when she pulled herself up, she spotted a hoofprint pressed into the dirt a mere inch from my head. So you could say I've been living on the edge since I was in diapers.
Dad's stories taught me things. After hearing the tale about the horse and my head, I understood the narrow margin that separates life and death. My story is told within that margin.
Downhill ski racers know there is a fine line between going for it and holding back and surviving -- a fine line that, at the world-class level, very few observers can define or even detect. But that tiny, indefinable margin can make a huge difference in how a skier feels, and therefore what his or her results are. A lot of athletes talk themselves out of winning. They come up with excuses as to why they aren't able to win, or don't deserve to, or aren't good enough to. And so they don't.
Before I was introduced to fear, I never talked myself out of winning. At every race I went into the gate with the unwavering belief that I would be the fastest skier in the field. This confidence was my trademark. I lost that confidence high on a mountain in Switzerland in the spring of 1998 after a fall that left me broken and traumatized. I have spent three years trying to get it back.
With its high speeds, hairpin turns, and bone-crushing crashes, downhill skiing has been called the NASCAR of winter sports. A ski racer slams into the rock-hard ground the way a racecar spins into a wall on the final turn. I've had my share of impacts; my body has paid a price. I have more scars than a woman should, and every one of them tells a story. I'm not proud of my scars, particularly the ten-inch Bride of Frankenstein number on the outside of my left thigh. These souvenirs of pain don't make me feel tough or successful as an athlete. They are signs of failure, of a loss of control.
Skiers risk everything for their sport, and sometimes they pay the ultimate price. More often they just get really badly hurt. I've had a few close calls myself and have been injured more times than I can count. This is the risk the ski racer accepts, and if you're demented like me, you push the envelope because that's where joy lies.
I've always been the kind of person who's stretched the limits, tested the boundaries, and challenged the rules. Conformity is not my thing. I grew up a poor kid in a rich kid's sport, a girl among boys, a free spirit among hard-asses, an American in a sport ruled by Europeans. I don't camouflage or censor myself. If I see bullshit, I call bullshit. The biggest lesson I took from my childhood was to keep it real, and maybe I've been a little too real for some people. My inner fire burns hot, and I believe that passion and intensity are two of the reasons I've achieved more success and fame than your average ski racer. Oh, and one more thing: never underestimate the power of a memorable name.
I am an all-or-nothing person, and my life has been marked by extremes -- highs and lows, peaks and valleys. I've achieved an athlete's greatest accomplishment -- Olympic gold -- and experienced an athlete's greatest fear -- a crippling injury. The crash of 1998 pulverized my left femur and shredded my right knee. I had to use crutches for months. Two crutches. People thought I had polio. I made fun of myself in a Nike commercial where I zoomed around a hospital in a wheelchair, but at the time there was nothing funny about the way I felt: stunted, like an animal caged in my own body. I had to literally rebuild my body and my mind. I had to learn to ski all over again and to face real fear for the first time.
What my story shows is that you can have a signature sneaker, big-time endorsement deals, and a string of TV commercials, but at the end of the day what matters is having a dream. My dream is to ski in one last Winter Olympics, the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City. This is the biggest comeback of my life, and some people don't think I can do it. A lot of people don't understand why I even want to try, why I didn't just give up and walk away three years ago, leaving my career on that mountainside in Switzerland. All I can say is when I have a dream, I'm like a pit bull with a chew toy: I won't drop it.
I can also say I'm just not ready to retire. Speed is in my system. I drive fast, talk fast, ski fast. My doctors say my blood runs through my body faster than most people's. I love to ride full throttle on my snowmobile, skipping across the surface of the earth for fifteen miles. I grew up believing I could do anything, that I was invincible. I have always had confidence in the physical realm, but I also had to learn not to be embarrassed by my strength. This is the central girl problem, but I learned what all girls need to learn: that you can kick ass, and you should never be ashamed to do so. Don't let anyone or anything slow you down.
Which brings me to another story.
A few years ago I had to get home in a hurry. Baba's wife, Lauren, had just given birth to a son named Cade, and I needed to see him. I was living in Portland, Oregon, at the time and couldn't get a flight to Sun Valley. So as I've done many times before, I decided to fly to Boise, rent a car, and drive.
There is a stretch of pavement on Interstate 84 where I really like to open it up. I come around a corner, crest a hill, and drop into the straightaway, and on this particular day, just as I'm getting up to speed, there it is, coming at me in the other lane.
The police car whips around, and the flashing red lights pop into my rearview mirror.
I get pulled over a lot, but I usually get out of a ticket if the officer is a guy. The cop steps out of the car. A woman.
She leans into my window and says, "Where's the fire?"
I whip out my Idaho driver's license and hand it to her.
"Well, you're obviously familiar with the area," she says. "I'm just wondering why you felt you needed to drive so fast."
"I'm on the way to see my new nephew, ma'am. And, quite frankly, I'm comfortable at eighty miles an hour."
"Well," she says, "and what is it that you do that makes you so comfortable at eighty miles an hour?"
"I'm a ski racer."
She reads the name on my license, looks at me (freckles, red hair, etc.), and a lightbulb switches on. But she does an excellent job of hiding the fact that she's recognized me. Cops have to practice that.
"This isn't a ski hill," she says finally.
"I realize that, ma'am. I'm just really anxious to see my nephew, and I have no excuse whatsoever. I'm driving fast. I'm in a hurry. I'm excited. I can't help it."
"All right, I'm going to let you off. But not for free."
I sign a couple autographs. Then she looks at me and says, "Don't let me see you again."
"Hopefully, I'll see you first, ma'am."
* * *
I AM A SKI RACER.
Those words have defined me for twenty years. They gave me the green flag to channel all my energies into my sport. Sometimes that meant I wasn't my best as a person. I swore too much or stepped on people's toes or let my competitiveness build a wall around me. It can be hard to flip a switch and come back to earth. A former coach once told me that he couldn't expect me to act like an ordinary person when I spend my time perfecting the extraordinary.
My story has been told in bits and pieces over the last eight years by a lot of writers and reporters. Sometimes they get the story right, but often they don't. So as the daughter of storytellers, I think it's only right for me to tell my own story, once and for all, and describe the people, events, and especially the place called Triumph that shaped me.
I'm still trying to figure out who I am off skis, and my story is about that evolution. I've been searching for my old, fearless, invincible self for the past three years, but the person I've found is new -- changed by adversity into someone more human, more humble, more compassionate.
This is the story of how I grew up.
Copyright © 2002 by Picabo Street