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EGGERS: Olympian Street still holding her edge


Picabo Street still has an edge even though she has a family and a couple of Olympic medals.Picabo Street is at it again.

No, not skiing. The esoterically named Olympic gold medalist and world champion retired after placing 16th in the downhill at the 2002 Games in Utah.

But the indefatigable former Portlander is out there doing stuff -- lots of it -- that matters.

I hadn't talked with Street (named for the village of Picabo, Idaho, near her hometown of Triumph) in more than a decade -- shortly before her comeback after a horrible accident in 1998 left her career in peril.

Since then, Street, 42, has been busy. The busiest part has been motherhood.

Picabo has four sons in her blended family -- she married John Reeser in 2008 -- stepson Eli (10) along with Trey (9), Dax (4) and Roen (2).

"When I do something, I do it all out," Street says with a laugh. "Yes, boys are wild at heart innately. Therefore, I'm happy we have a five-acre yard to kick them out into for their roughhousing. I spend most of my time trying to teach them to be calm and centered and learning something."

Picabo divides her time between homes in Park City, Utah, and Birmingham, Ala. The kids go to school in Birmingham. John is a stay-at-home dad for now, also running a side lawn-care business "to keep his sanity," she says,

Street's current project is Citi's "Every Step of the Way" program to benefit the USOC's "Stay on the Slopes" initiative, which provides injury prevention technology to keep skiers and snowboarders injury-free.

"When I retired (from ski racing), I said I was going to have a family and make a positive difference in the next generation's lives," Street says. "My youngest is almost three, and I'm back in the saddle, looking for the opportunity to be involved in these kind of programs."

Pikabo is one of nine current and former U.S. Winter Olympians and Paralympians promoting the "Every Step of the Way" program. Citi marked the launch last month with a $500,000 donation to the USOC. Whichever athlete gets the most on-line votes (everystep.citi.com) lands $50,000 for his/her charity. Street's money would go to "Stay on the Slopes."

"Voters are helping allocate where the Citi money goes," she says. "What I really want the audience to know is the USOC and Olympic athletes are not government-funded. All of the amenities and resources come straight from sponsorship and donor dollars. That's what makes these kind of things so important."

(I went to the website and chose Team Picabo. I found you can vote only once.)

When Street moved to Portland with her parents in 1994, she was a young and up-and-coming member of the U.S. national ski team. Already a household name in the sport, she found the proximity to Mount Hood and a major airport had its benefits.

"It was a good move for me and one of the best things I did with my career," Street says. "The timing was nice. I was very popular, I was winning a lot, I was very busy. The geographical location made it easy for me to have good time management. I had the on-snow training, the video sessions and all that going on. With Mount Hood being an hour and a half away, I could do a photo shoot, get up there and train all the day. Not long after I got here, I met (trainer) Matt James, whom I worked with until the end of my career, and I signed on with Nike.

"It all blended perfectly, and Portland was awesome. I'd move back there in a heartbeat. Nothing beats Portland on a sunny way."

Things happened fast on the slopes for Street in those years. She was the first U.S. woman to win the World Cup women's downhill competition in 1994. Won a silver medal in the Olympic downhill at Lillehammer the same year. World downhill season championships in 1995 and '96, becoming the first American woman to pull it off. A gold medal in the downhill at the 1996 World Championships. More gold in the Olympic Super G at Nagano in 1998. All the while being one of the most charismatic and interesting personalities in the sport, as chronicled in her life-in-the-fast-lane autobiography, "Picabo: Nothing to Hide."

But then, a month after Nagano, a terrible accident during the final downhill of the season left her career in temporary shambles. She snapped her left femur and tore a ligament in her right knee, resulting in four surgeries and two years of rehab.

"My Olympic dream had just come true," she says. "I had the red carpet laid out there in front of me. I should have stepped on it and run for it and had a better time of it. Instead, I blew myself apart. But I learned more about myself through that period of time than ever in my life."

Street returned to competitive skiing in 2000, about the time she moved from Portland to Park City to begin the comeback bid. She made her third Olympic team in 2002 and raced in Utah, placing 16th in the downhill. No medal, but a great way to end a career. She regards it as a success.

"Very much so. I absolutely do," she says. "It was exactly what I set out for it to be -- validation for all the hard work I put in. You have to envision what you want for yourself, put it out there and demand it back. You don't do it in an aggressive way, just in a real consistent way. That's what I did.

"I fulfilled every dream and wish I had. Now I'm real persistent about the things I want from the universe in other ways."

Would another medal have made her final competition more meaningful?

"No," she says. "That was what I learned the most about it through the process, which makes it easier for me to appreciate the other (medals), too.

"I can honestly say, I do not believe winning a medal in the Salt Lake Olympics would have changed my life in any way, shape or form. I worked hard enough to get back, to give it my best on that day. I was able to walk away from my sport with my head up, a smile on my face, with my friends and family in the audience. It couldn't have been any better."

Marriage and motherhood have filled much of Street's life since then. In 2012, though, she competed in the NBC military combat-like competition show called "Stars Earn Stripes," making it to the final challenge with actor Dean Cain and WWE diva Eve Torres.

"One of the most amazing experiences of my life," Street says. "It changed my perspective on some things about the military. It was an honor to be around those people and to raise some money for the 'Hiring Our Heroes' program for veterans."

Today, Street does some motivational speaking at schools about a few of her passions, including recycling, health and wellness, texting while driving and family fitness.

"I try to help the next generation move forward with awareness, particularly in the way they are role models and as people on the planet," he says.

Street, who has done some TV analyst work in the past, will be broadcasting for Fox at the 2014 Olympics at Sochi, Russia, next February. She's most excited about a series of profiles on the competing athletes.

"I can tell people why somebody is faster than somebody by a hair, but it never fired me up," says Street, who was inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame in 2004. "But I'll get to do profiles on athletes I find interesting and are good role models. I'll talk to them, see what they're about, give them advice and get advice from them. It cultivates a lot of really great resources on both ends."

When I wish her luck and tell her it's been nice talking again, she laughs.

"Me, too," she says. "Enjoy the fall in P-Town."

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Twitter: @kerryeggers