- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY. — A lot of people may say that skier Picabo Street got what she deserved when she was shut out of any role involving tonight's Opening Ceremony for the 2002 Winter Olympics other than that of an athlete marching into the stadium.
After all, she made it known to everyone this week that she clearly wanted to be the one to carry the American flag into Rice-Eccles Stadium, leading the American team in the parade. "I hope I'm the one they see fit to carry it," she said. "It certainly could be the greatest moment of my career."
And if that didn't happen, Street figured she was a lock to be one of the athletes who would be part of the honor guard to carry in the ground zero flag in a separate ceremony tonight. "I believe I will be part of the color guard," she said. "We will give America something pure and fresh."
But that is not going to happen. America may still get something pure and fresh tonight, but Picabo Street won't be part of it. In what has to be a personal embarrassment for the two-time Olympic medalist, she was passed over in the voting for the flag bearer and the color guard by her American teammates.
Amy Peterson, a two-time medalist in short track speedskating who will be competing in her fourth Winter Olympics, was selected by her teammates to be the flag bearer and eight other athletes were selected to be part of the ground zero honor guard.
"There are a lot of great athletes who come through the United States, and I never thought I would actually get picked," Peterson said. "It's a great honor anyway, and I think to carry the flag in a situation like this after September 11 is an even greater honor."
Not only was Street not picked for either flag duty, she also was passed over by teammates as the official oath taker. Jim Shea Jr., who is competing in the revived skeleton race, was named by his teammates to recite the official athlete's oath.
Both are certainly worthy choices. Peterson has won nine U.S. short track championships in the past 10 years and holds all the women's American records in the sport. Shea is one of the most poignant stories of these Games, a third-generation Olympian whose grandfather Jack, a speedskater for the U.S. Olympic team in the 1932 Lake Placid Games, was killed recently in an automobile accident.
"I was so taken aback, for several reasons," Shea said. "The first of which is the fact that all of the athletes voted for this that is a tremendous honor. The second really important reason is my grandfather did the same thing in 1932, and this is special because of his passing."
Picabo? She will be hidden from view. She'll be lucky if they allow her in the stadium.
It's clear that her public campaigning for a role turned off her teammates, and that is a shame. I've seen my share of self-promoters, and nearly all of them will say whatever they need to in order to further their interests. I don't believe she falls into that category. I think Street says what she really feels and, unfortunately, that, too, is a sin in the world of athletes.
I've seen it in locker rooms in all sorts of sports, athletes who are willing to say what's on their mind, and the negative reaction from teammates who obviously aren't comfortable with that, probably out of envy of their own shortcomings, or simply because they were taught by those who came before them that this is the way it is done you say a few safe cliches, and that is all.
It's not just athletes who buy into this. Sportswriters do as well, criticizing athletes who are willing to say what is on their mind a bizarre reaction since we hammer people we cover for not saying anything and then we hammer them for saying something.
I'm not talking about a destructive force like a Randy Moss, whose words hurt his team. I'm talking about someone, like Picabo Street, saying what others are also thinking that she would have loved to have been part of this patriotic moment.
She should have been, because nobody embodies the American spirit more than this 31-year-old skier. When she stunned everyone by winning the super G gold medal in Nagano four years ago, Street talked about how she practiced singing the national anthem with her mother for months in anticipation of being on the podium with the American flag raised. The helmet she will wear when she competes in the downhill race Monday will be red, white and blue, with the Statue of Liberty painted on one side and a picture of an F-16 military jet on the other. This from a child born of two hippies who didn't even name her until she needed a passport at the age of 2.
And there is no one who embodies the spirit of Olympic competition more than Street. After winning the silver medal in the downhill in the 1994 games in Lillehammer, she suffered a severe injury in the fall of 1996, snapping three of four ligaments in her left knee. Not only did she come back from that to win the super G a race she had never won before she did so while suffering the effects of a concussion after a crash less than two weeks before her Olympic race in Nagano.
A few months later, Street had another terrible accident on the slopes, breaking her left femur and tearing apart four ligaments in her right knee. It was nearly three years before Street could compete again, and she has not done particularly well since coming back.
She failed to qualify in the super G to defend her gold medal at Salt Lake City, though the last race she won was a downhill 11 months ago on the same course for Monday's downhill medal event. She thinks she has one race left in her. "It's the downhill," Street said. "Anything can happen."
If Street manages to pull off another miracle comeback Monday, she would have delivered something pure and fresh to America, despite her teammates' shortsightness.

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