A new episode was written last weekend in the long-running miniseries-on-snow, “Friends?” when quiet, plain Hilary Lindh became the world’s fastest female skier not wearing a knee brace.
And nobody could have been happier for her than the woman with the gimpy knee, effervescent, glamorous Picabo Street. Of course.
While Lindh was winning the downhill gold medal in the 1997 World Alpine Ski Championships at Sestriere, Italy, her injured teammate--the 1996 gold medalist--was rehabilitating on the beach in Hawaii . . . between teleconferences with her agent, Nike’s Greg Anderson, and meetings with her recently hired private secretary, Tiffany Timmons.
Lindh’s only telephone call after her stunning victory was to Mom and Dad in Juneau, Alaska.
As for Street, whom she has called “not a close friend, but we are on friendly terms,” Lindh told the Associated Press: “I am looking forward to speaking to her, to be able to share this with her. I am sorry she couldn’t be here this year, but I am happy for myself.”
They will have a chance to meet Feb. 28-March 1 during the next women’s World Cup races, two downhills at Nagano, Japan.
Street, who won’t be skiing, wants to check out “the course, the crowds and the atmosphere” before next February’s Olympics. Lindh, 27, in her 13th season on the U.S. ski team, will be skiing this time, but possibly not in 1998.
“I will put off any decision until the spring or summer,” said Lindh, a part-time biology major at University of Utah. “There are a lot of things that I want to do right now that are different from skiing.”
Street, who turns 26 on April 3, also has a lot of things to do, but they’re mostly connected with skiing. From Nagano, she will fly home to Portland, Ore., for overnight relief from jet lag, then it’s on to Las Vegas for the Snow Industries America annual show March 3-7.
Her new clothing line will be on display there.
Until Lindh’s final-day surprise, the U.S. effort at Sestriere was on the verge of becoming a candidate for “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”
In the other nine events, the top American finish was a 13th in the women’s slalom by Tasha Nelson, 22, of Mound, Minn. The leading U.S. male skier was Jason Rosener, also 22, of Breckenridge, Colo., who was 16th in the downhill and 18th in the combined. Both began the winter on the C team.
Matt Grosjean of Aliso Viejo, Calif., considered a longshot medal possibility in the men’s slalom, wound up 19th.
The big winners were host Italy, Norway and Switzerland with six medals each. The Italians and Norwegians each had three golds, the Swiss two.
The outlook is even bleaker for the United States in the World Nordic Ski Championships, which open Friday and continue through March 3 at Trondheim, Norway.
Only four Americans are entered, all in the Nordic combined event: Tim Tetreault, Todd Lodwick, Dave Jarrett and Ryan Heckman.
The World Freestyle Ski Championships earlier this month at the Olympic venue in Japan were the usual all-American show, right?
Wrong. In eight events, U.S. competitors failed to win a gold medal. They did take three silvers, but the average age of the medalists was 32:
--Donna Weinbrecht, 31, of West Milford, N.J., second in women’s moguls.
--Eric Bergoust, 27, of Missoula, Mont., second in men’s aerials.
--Ian Edmondson, 39, of Kalamazoo, Mich., second in men’s acro-skiing, an event formerly known as ballet and not yet included in the Games.
In the last world championships, two years ago at La Clusaz, France, Americans won six medals, including four golds.
Of course, injuries and retirements haven’t helped, nor have deep cuts in the U.S. Skiing budget, which already are affecting the development of young competitors--in all of the sports.
Trace Worthington, the men’s aerials and combined gold medalist in 1995, skipped much of last season after being injured while performing an inverted stunt. He came back briefly this season but discovered he is still suffering from vertigo.
Snow Summit plays host to a $25,000 American Snowboard Tour event Friday through Sunday, with a boardercross and two halfpipes scheduled.