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A Look at Athletes Competing in Winter Olympics

Aired February 9, 2002 - 11:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, he's a downhill daredevil with a view to a thrill, a third generation Olympian whose dream has been sidetracked by personal tragedy.


JIMMY SHEA, U.S. SKELETON TEAM MEMBER: My biggest dream wasn't to win a gold medal, it was to go and see my grandfather and father in the stands.


ANNOUNCER: Plus, a gold medal skier, coming back from a career- threatening injury.

Picabo Street, skier: The psychological game is ever changing. Picabo Street, her triumphs and tragedies, and what's up with that name? And a 16-year-old underdog who could pull a figure skating upset.


HELENE ELLIOTT, OLYMPIC COLUMNIST, "LA TIMES": This time Sarah Hughes is not chopped liver. Sarah Hughes is a genuine contender.


ANNOUNCER: The little princess who's out to ice her better-known competition. Those stories, and other personalities worth watching this Winter Olympics, now on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Carol Lin in Park City, Utah, where the world's fastest athletes are being put to the test. They've got game, but will they get gold? The 2002 Winter Games are under way, and we've got the scoop on who to watch, including Sarah Hughes.

She's young and she promises to give Michelle Kwan a run on the ice. CNN's David Mattingly on a figure skater who figures to surprise.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At 16, Sarah Hughes is about to get a crash course in maturity. That's because she's about to collide with the dream she has had all of her short life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I started skating when I was four, between four and five, and then one day to get a gold medal. I can't wait for that to happen.

SARAH HUGHES, FIGURE SKATER: When I skate, I feel a sense of freedom, like I can do anything. And when you have days where you feel really good, I feel like I'm unstoppable and I can just do anything.

MATTINGLY: But this is the Olympics, her first Olympics. She will face 24 of the world's best, representing 16 countries, all skating for that coveted gold medal, including Olympic Silver Medalist and six-time national champion, Michelle Kwan.

JOHN HUGHES, FATHER: Sarah has a deep respect for Michelle and for her skating, but I think at this point, Sarah believes that she's competitive with everybody in the world, and I think her record shows that.

WAGNER: The nice thing is yes, you know, in four more years she'll only be 20. She could have the opportunity again. But we don't look at it that way, you know, because one never knows in sports what can happen in four years.

And I just look at young people that might be on the same path, and I can only hope that they have the same wonderful journey as Sarah's had.

MATTINGLY: The journey to Salt Lake began thousands of miles away in the posh Long Island suburb of Great Neck, New York, some 30 miles outside New York City. Here Sarah is a local celebrity. At her high school, students and teachers are proud of their hometown girl.

SUSAN BABKES, HISTORY TEACHER: She was just another student. The one exception, which was exciting, was the Monday morning after we learned that she made the Olympics, and they announced it on the PA in the morning in the first period class, and the whole class cheered, and then one student said "and she sat right there."

MATTINGLY: There's even a sandwich named after Sarah at the local delicatessen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have the Sarah Hughes special right here.

MATTINGLY: Skating has always been a part of the Hughes family. When Sarah was three, her mother recalls bringing the children, all five in tow, to the local skating rink. The two older boys, five and seven, played hockey, and little Sarah wasn't about to be left out.

AMY HUGHES, MOTHER: It was a real ordeal to get everybody over there, and I'd line them up and tie their skates, and I'd tie hers first, the first time I took her, and when I went to the next one, who was the five-year-old, I looked and Sarah was gone. I don't even know how she could do it.

MATTINGLY: With no formal instruction, Sarah began to skate. By age 5, she competed in her first skating competition. She took second place. But it wasn't until 1994 that Sarah found Robin Wagner, the woman who would take her under her wing, support her, and cultivate her raw talent into Olympic potential.

WAGNER: It wasn't easy at first, because she was a little jumping bean, and all she wanted to do was jump. And when I first started working with her, my job was to, you know, do connecting steps, make her start to look like, you know, a young developing skater. It's an awful lot of work, especially when you've got a very young person who wants to sort of get out of the, you know, starting gate, and I've got to pull it back and really start to teach her.

MATTINGLY: The same can be said when Sarah is home. It's lighter moments with her family that help her stay in check.

A. HUGHES: I'd say she's been pretty well adjusted. I really do try to keep the skating talk out of the house.

MATTINGLY: But there's plenty of skating talk with Wagner. The two travel most days to Ice House in Hackensack, New Jersey, on a good day, about an hour's drive from Sarah's home.

S. HUGHES: It's worth driving that far to get to my rink, because it's a world-class training facility. I'm actually lucky that I have this training facility so close, because I don't have to move.

J. HUGHES: Robin and Sarah have really got a bond between them, and I think this time they spent traveling back and forth had something to do with that. They listen to music. They talk about skating, and they talk about a lot of other things. Overall, I think the travel time has contributed to Sarah's growth.

MATTINGLY: Friendship has proven to be vital even in crisis. In 1997, Sarah's mother was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer.

WAGNER: I was aware that my position was going to become a little bit more important, because I was going to have to let Amy and John deal with Amy's illness, but we really all hung in there together. Sarah took care of herself. She grew up quickly.

A. HUGHES: She really helped out with the younger sisters then, and she helped in the house, because I wasn't even there for five weeks. I was in the hospital, and she would come and visit. You know it was wonderful.

MATTINGLY: Sarah had to deal with her mother's illness, while preparing for the Junior Championship. Before the competition, her mother was released from the hospital to see her daughter skate. She is now in remission.

A. HUGHES: I hadn't seen the program. I hadn't heard the music, and she was wonderful, and she was so happy. You know what? It made me feel so good. She was just, she loved to do it. MATTINGLY: Sarah Hughes heads to the ice six days a week. Off the ice, she takes ballet and other forms of dance to improve her choreography. The work seems to have paid off.

S. HUGHES: Sometimes I do get lonely because I'm by myself, but I don't really get to go and hang out at the mall for a whole weekend, or go and see a movie whenever I feel like it. But it's really a choice I made, and what I'm doing so much outweighs getting to do that.

I get to go to the rink and I get to skate and be the best I can be at something, and know I've given it my all.

MATTINGLY: Since 1997, Hughes has placed in 18 of her last 22 events, including a win at the U.S. Junior Championships, and two top three finishes at the World and U.S. Championships.

ELLIOTT: Sarah has shown a consistency, an increasing maturity. This time, Sarah Hughes is not chopped liver. I mean, Sarah Hughes is a genuine contender.

MATTINGLY: At this year's nationals, it was all on the line. Sarah needed to place to get an Olympic spot. From the stands, her parents watched and waited.

J. HUGHES: You need to prepare yourself to be able to deal with the times when you don't win, and there's always times that you're not going to win.

A. HUGHES: Sarah was so sad after the short program. She came to both of us and she said, "don't worry." She said "don't worry." I said "okay, I'm not going to worry.

MATTINGLY: There was no need to worry. Sarah Hughes placed third. She was headed to the Olympic Games. Sarah Hughes may only be 16, but she is looking to take on the role of spoiler in Salt Lake.

WAGNER: I think at an Olympic Games, that has to be the ultimate feeling an athlete has, because one never knows. You know, it's two minutes and forty seconds in a short program, four minutes in a long program, and anything can happen.

S. HUGHES: My goal in skating is to be the best I can be, and try to lead as normal a life as possible. And my life pretty much has been pretty normal. What is normal, you know?

MATTINGLY: When you're only 16 and shooting for a gold medal, life is anything but normal.


ANNOUNCER: Coming up, Tom, Cameron, and Tara? A spoiler from the last Winter Games tries testing herself in a new light, away from the ice. Where is Tara Lipinski now? That story when PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues.




MATTINGLY (voice-over): In 1998, 15-year-old figure skater, Tara Lipinski, went to Nagano, Japan with dreams of winning Olympic Gold. Even with her lofty goals, she was still an underdog to fellow American Michelle Kwan.

TARA LIPINSKI, FIGURE SKATER: At the time, it was like you know maybe I won't win, but I'm going to go out there and I'm going to skate the best ever and have a good time, and I don't really care what happens.

MATTINGLY: With butterflies in her stomach, Tara went out and skated the program of her life. All that was left was the judge's decision.

LIPINSKI: I couldn't have done better at the moment, and I remember sitting down and saying, "oh no, the mark. Who's going to win?"

MATTINGLY: The marks came in and Tara Lipinski had become the youngest Gold Medalist in lady's Olympic Figure Skating history.

LIPINSKI: Every day you wake up thinking, I want to be an Olympic Champion and then all of a sudden in like one second, it's up on the board saying you are, and it's had to comprehend.

MATTINGLY: Becoming an Olympic Champion at 15, the future seemed unlimited for the ice sprite. So, where is Tara Lipinski now? Soon after returning from Japan, Lipinski made the announcement she was becoming a professional ice skater, a controversial decision for someone who had yet to get her driver's license.

LIPINSKI: I did get a lot of flack for turning pro, because I'm so young. But there are a lot of Olympic champions that won Olympics and went pro right away but they were a little bit older.

MATTINGLY: Tara continues to appear in figure-skating shows across the world. Aside from being one of the Stars on Ice, she's now attempting to become a star in Hollywood.

LIPINSKI: I've been doing a lot of acting, which is so much fun, and I did a lot after the Olympics but now I kind of started with a coach and really got into it.

MATTINGLY: The 19-year-old has had recurring roles in television shows like "The Young and the Restless," "Veronica's Closet," and Nickelodeon's "Are you Afraid of the Dark." While watching the filming of "Vanilla Sky," Tara was offered a walk-on role.

LIPINSKI: I was at the set that day and Cameron Diaz just said "oh come on, be in this part" and I was like "okay." So I was there with Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise. MATTINGLY: Although the scene was edited from the movie, Lipinski is working hard to make her big screen debut. She also finds time to work with several charities, like the Target House. So what is next for Tara Lipinski?

LIPINSKI: I'm so busy, just acting, skating, touring with Stars on Ice. I've kind of booked up, having fun.


ANNOUNCER: Coming up, he's diving head first into the Olympics, but his story is so much more than an adrenalin rush.


JIMMY SHEA: It was an amazing journey, and that's what my grandfather always talked about, you know, the journey and getting there.


ANNOUNCER: Inspiration at a furious place, when we return.


LIN: You could say that Jim Shea has a need for speed. You could also say that he's got the Olympics in his blood. Jim Shea is a third-generation Olympian, and he's also the lead member on the U.S. skeleton team. Skeleton? Well, try racing face down at hurricane speeds with no brakes. CNN's David Mattingly has more.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): Just what would inspire a person to hurl himself face first down a bobsled run on a tiny sled, 80 miles an hour, two inches above the ice?

JIMMY SHEA: It's an adrenalin thing. You know, it's very exciting. It's very fun to do. It's high speed. It's high excitement. It's a little dangerous and I love to do it.

MATTINGLY: It's called Skeleton and Jimmy Shea is one of the sport's biggest champions.

SHEA: It's real high-tech flexible flyer. It has metal runners going down. You steer with your shoulders and you have nothing but a little ski suit and a helmet on.

MATTINGLY: A dangerous sport, dropped from the Olympics 54 years ago, returning now with safer track designs, and a new fascination with extreme sports.

Jimmy Shea hopes to make his own golden moment in the sport's comeback and seal his place in a family tradition.

JACK SHEA, GRANDFATHER: He knew there was a chance by getting into the Olympics he could follow his grandfather and his father, and it's come to fruition, and I am so proud of him for this.

JIM SHEA SR., FATHER: And for it to happen to us to have three generations of Olympians in three different winter sports, is just so very special for us and for my dad.

MATTINGLY: Three generations competing in three Winter Olympic sports. The Sheas are the only family to produce such a trio. Jimmy Shea's father was a cross-country skier in the '64 Olympics. He later coached biathlon in the '72 games. In 1932, Jimmy's grandfather Jack won two Gold Medals in speed skating.

JACK SHEA: I won the first event (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 1932 in the third Winter Olympic Games, in front of Franklin D. Roosevelt. And on the next day, the very next day, I repeated and won the second Gold Medal

MATTINGLY: The Olympics are a Shea family tradition, one that would be clouded by tragedy. Though the Shea family has a lofty legacy, Jimmy's childhood was relatively low key. Born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1968, young Jimmy showed promise at the hockey rink in LaCross (ph) Field. But it wasn't athletic prowess alone that foretold Jimmy's success in skeleton.

JIM SHEA SR.: I bought Jimmy a little dirt bike when he was, I don't know, 10, 12 years old. Every once in a while, I'd look over there and he'd be going off a log or a jump, and I'd say "oh, God."

JACK SHEA: Jimmy is a very active young man. He was willing to try anything that had speed to it.

MATTINGLY: At 19, Jimmy moved with his family to Lake Placid, New York, his father and grandfather's hometown, and a hub for winter sports. It was here in his eternal quest for speed, that Jimmy and some local boys built and raced their own bobsled.

JIMMY SHEA: We were up there one day and one of the guys from the National Team came over to us and my friends were hung over, and smoking cigarettes. I don't smoke. But they were sitting on the rail and hung over. I think one guy was actually throwing up, and the National guy game up and said "hey, you guys don't deserve to be here" you know. I said "wait a minute. Where are you from?" He goes "I'm from Texas." I go "well get the hell out of here. This is my town."

MATTINGLY: That confrontation with a U.S. national skeleton athlete propelled Jimmy in a new direction.

JIMMY SHEA: I said "all right" and I wanted to try skeleton anyway, so I went and tried skeleton, and I wanted to beat these guys.

MATTINGLY: After the first try, Jimmy knew he had found his sport. He relished the thrill, the ice flying under his chin, the g- forces pulling at his body.

JACK SHEA: Jimmy, when he got on the skeleton sled, you know, that was absolutely natural for him. MATTINGLY: Within a year, Jimmy was on the U.S. National Team, ready to take on the world. But overseas a reality check, the financially outgunned U.S. team got no respect.

JIMMY SHEA: I went out there and, you know, a typical Adirondack American guy, you know, a hunting jacket on and you know, "hey, how are you doing? Jimmy Shea." And Germans, they don't talk to anybody. They're mad. You know, they walk around mad, and the Austrians were too cocky. They just make fun of you.

MATTINGLY: The outclassed Americans were trounced that season. Defeated and exhausted, the team went home. But Jimmy opted to stay, determined to learn from his European opponents.

JIMMY SHEA: I got so mad. I said I'm going to either quit or I'm going to make this happen.

MATTINGLY: For two months, he journeyed through Europe's skeleton runs, with a bag of clothes and a broken sled.

JIMMY SHEA: I got time on the track. The British guy gave me a sled. I was there and all of a sudden the Europeans started respecting me a little bit more. They taught me a couple tricks and here, and in two months, I was the first American ever to win a World Cup.

MATTINGLY: Over the past three years, Jimmy Shea's journey has included speed records on tracks throughout the world. He's also racked up more World Cup wins than any other U.S. competitor, easily garnering a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team. Jimmy Shea had arrived.

The youngest Shea set aside training time to film his commercial for his sponsor, Spring PCS, an ad that features all three generations of Olympians, a small splash of commercialism from a family that has passed the torch of Olympic ideals from one generation to another.

JACK SHEA: I hope that Jim takes home as I had, a great silent pride in having the opportunity to honor country. The (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of the Olympic ideal is that through friendly athletic competitions, we bring about better relations between peoples and between the nations of the world.

JIMMY SHEA: That's what my grandfather always talked about, the journey and getting there and how you act getting there, how you treat people along the way. That's how you would remember it, he'd say. He was right. He was right.

MATTINGLY: On January 21, just hours after our interview, as he drove himself home, Jack Shea, Olympian, champion, family patriarch, was hit by a drunk driver. He died the next morning. Jack was 91.

JIMMY SHEA: He wanted everybody to be together at the Olympics and he wanted, so wanted to be a part of that, and to have it taken away, you know, 17 days before the games, it just changes everything. My biggest wasn't to win a Gold Medal. It was to go and see my grandfather and father in the stands, you know. I've been telling everybody that for years. That was it.

MATTINGLY: The Shea's Olympic experience will be different now, but the legacy continues to loom large.

JIMMY SHEA: I'm just going to be so proud to be able to represent my country and welcome the world to my home, you know, my home. And I'm very honored and I'm very excited about doing that, just as he did in 1932.


LIN: Jim Shea's isn't the only emotional story at the Winter Olympics, or in our "People to Watch."


MATTINGLY (voice-over): It's easy to see why many eyes will be on Chris Klug this winter. The 29-year-old snowboarder has overcome more than a slalom hill to prepare for this Olympics.

CHRIS KLUG, SNOWBOARDER: I spent most of last summer on the waiting list, waiting for a liver transplant. I was diagnosed nine years ago with PSC, Primary Schlerosing Colongitis. It's a very rare liver condition.

MATTINGLY: The Colorado native had been on the waiting list for three and a half years. His snowboarding began to suffer.

KLUG: I started to feel some of the adverse effects, some of the side effects, flu-like symptoms, elevated temperature and just sort of loss of appetite. I was really struggling keeping the weight on, and obviously in downhill snowboarding, just pure physics, it pays off to be a little heavier. That was tough.

MATTINGLY: Klug finally got a new liver. It was a perfect match. In seven weeks, he was back out on the snow, and only four months later, competing on the World Cup circuit.

KLUG: You know on the Olympic course here, I'll be a little jittery and probably get a few butterflies and stuff, but you know, it's nothing like facing possibly not surviving a liver transplant and battling for your life.

MATTINGLY: The Skeleton, close up and in-your-face speed. Lee Ann Parsley's assessment, thrilling.

LEE ANN PARSLEY, U.S. SKELETON TEAM: Getting your car up to speed on the Interstate at 80 miles an hour, opening the door and sticking your head about two inches above the cement and feel that kind of a rush. It's the speed. It's almost indescribable.

MATTINGLY: The 33-year-old Parsley has put her thrill-seeking to good use away from competition as well. She's been a firefighter since the age of 16. In 1999, she was named Ohio Firefighter of the Year, after helping save two people from a burning house. Parsley was working toward a spot on the Olympic team when the events of 9/11 hit home.

PARSLEY: One of the first few things I did that day was to call home, just talk to my lieutenant, talk to some of the guys, just to hear their voice. A couple of them are involved in the Ohio Urban Search and Rescue Team, so I knew there was a good chance that they were going to be leaving, and I just wanted to talk to them before they left, wish them good luck, and be careful.

MATTINGLY: Parsley was training for the U.S. Bobsled Team when she discovered skeleton. The lifelong athlete decided to jump in, literally head first.

PARSLEY: Thank goodness being that new, I didn't really no any better, so I just hopped on and took off.

MATTINGLY: What's in a name? Ask Apolo Onno. There's a good chance you'll be hearing his name a lot.

APOLO ONNO, SKATER: It's from my dad. AP means to lead and the LO means away from and the O brings all the others. So it's like to lead away from. He told me it was from Greek origin, and something he gave me.

MATTINGLY: His Japanese-American father gave Apolo more than a unique name. He also inspired him to make the switch from inline skating to the ice when he was only 13.

Now some feel the 19-year-old champion has a chance to sweep all four golds in the short-track competition. The expectations are so great for Onno this winter that he is already being compared to another speed skating legend, Eric Heiden.

ONNO: Eric Heiden, you know, five gold medals, one Olympics. That's just crazy. All the speed skaters look up to him, you know, and he is like the man. I'd be completely happy with just one medal.


ANNOUNCER: Just ahead, from triumph to tragedy, and back again. The world-class skier with the world-class name looks to return to glory. Picabo Street when PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues.



LIN: She's a gold medal skier whose name sounds more like a place than a person. Picabo Street. At age 30, she's the old-timer of the U.S. Alpine ski team. But neither age nor injury has doused her competitive fire. CNN's David Mattingly has more.


ANDY BIGFORD, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "SKI" MAGAZINE: Maybe it starts with the name, maybe it starts with the red hair.

DANA WHITE, "PICABO: NOTHING TO HIDE": You don't forget the name Picabo Street.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She's more than a name you can't forget. Picabo Street is hailed as the greatest female skier in U.S. history.

BIGFORD: She won nine World Cup downhills, which is unheard of. It's never been done by an American before.

MATTINGLY: Picabo Street has also taking home two Olympic medals, a silver and a gold. But at the pinnacle of her sport, she's had to deal with career-threatening crashes -- not once, but twice.

BIGFORD: I think her latest go-round started out with, is she going to walk again?

MATTINGLY: Now, more than two years off the slopes recuperating from World Cup injuries, Picabo Street faces the toughest comeback of her career.

WHITE: It is like being Rip Van Winkle and waking up and finding everything has changed but -- you know, but she changed as well. For one thing, she was afraid. She had to overcome that fear of reinjuring herself. She literally cried in the starting gate from fear.

MATTINGLY: Street overcame that fear. She made it through the end of this World Cup season beating some of the best ski racers in the world. The downhill champion was chosen for the 22-member U.S. ski team for the Salt Lake City Olympics. At age 30, this current race to the finish line will be Street's most difficult.

PICABO STREET, SKIER: There's new challenges that present themselves to me. And I have to rise up to them, figure out how I can best go about, you know, conquering them, and then moving through.

MATTINGLY: For Picabo Street, it's been a lifetime of tragedies and triumphs.

WHITE: Picabo was born in an old mining community named Triumph.

MATTINGLY: A fitting place for the champion to get her start. Triumph, Idaho, a backwater town of about 50, 15 miles from Sun Valley, the world-famous ski destination.

WHITE: It wasn't really a town. It was a collection of old buildings. And her parents, who were '60s dropouts, had relocated there from Reno, actually, from Nevada.

MATTINGLY: Picabo Street was born at home, on April 3, 1971. Her father Ron was a chef and stone mason. Mom, Dee, was a housekeeper for several wealthy residents of Sun Valley, including Clint Eastwood. Their daughter went without a name for her first few years in Triumph.

WHITE: She was called "little girl" or she was called a series of sort of nicknames. But she did not have a name, and her brother didn't either. And he was called Baba (ph). One of Picabo's favorite games was the game of peekaboo. And it just so happened to phonetically sound the same as the town of Picabo and the Picabo desert.

MATTINGLY: The little girl named Picabo spent her childhood a tomboy, rough housing with her brother Baba (ph) and the other kids. There were eight children in Triumph, seven of them boys.

WHITE: She played tackle football. She played full contact ice hockey on the pond.

MATTINGLY: Picabo was learning to ski when she was 5, and made her first downhill run with her brother on a Sun Valley beginner slope. Her parents waited at the bottom of the mountain.

WHITE: They're all like, well, where is Picabo. And somebody said, well, is that her? And she's just bombing straight down the mountain for the first get-go. She was just going all out.

MATTINGLY: Picabo was skiing faster than most of the kids her age, but she still had to deal with the stigma of being a poor kid in a rich kid's sport.

WHITE: It was hard, because her teammates, their parents were often wealthy people. I mean, we're talking about, you know, tycoons, movie stars, and then their daughter becomes a great ski racer, and it was a point of pride for them.

MATTINGLY: At the age of 10, Picabo made her first ski team, the Sun Valley Education Foundation, a breeding ground for nationally ranked ski racers.

STREET: When you're just getting on skis, you're 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 years old, and you're watching on TV other people win their medals, and you get this glimmer in your eye and it's this dream.

MATTINGLY: The junior skier went on to win more races on her Sun Valley team. In 1984, Picabo was asked to join the U.S. ski team training camp. That meant leaving her family and Triumph, Idaho.

WHITE: I mean, she was 15. She was jetting off to South America, jetting off to Europe. So not only did it make it tough for her to keep up with her school work, I think it also made it tough for her to have sort of a normal teenage life.

MATTINGLY: Picabo also had a tough time adjusting to the grueling workout schedule of a professional skier.

BIGFORD: She had confrontations with her coaches over her exercise and the shape that she was in. And you know, she's a strong personality.

MATTINGLY: Her strong personality also made for some clashes with fellow teammates.

WHITE: You're expected to conform when you're part of a team. And Picabo did exactly what she pleased. And you know, she was very rebellious, she had a fiery temper. She was notorious for swearing in the finish line if she didn't like her run.

MATTINGLY: The teenager was kicked off the U.S. ski team a few times early in her career. But soon the skier got serious.

STREET: I hate this.

MATTINGLY: She got in the best shape of her life and became a team player.

WHITE: And then she ended up winning two national ski championship titles in a row and ended up making the A-team.

MATTINGLY: At 23, Street rose to international prominence when she captured a silver medal in the downhill, at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympic Games.

WHITE: All of a sudden, her eccentric family and her funny name and her difficult childhood and her struggles on the team became part of this colorful story that the media really liked.

MATTINGLY: The media loved the red-haired girl with the catchy first name. Picabo Street had big commercial endorsements with companies like Chapstick and Nike.

WHITE: Picabo was arguably one of the first women athletes to get a very lucrative endorsement deal with Nike.

MATTINGLY: This year, Street can be seen on the front of 75 million boxes of cereal.

Street took downhill ski racing to another level in '95 and '96.

BIGFORD: She won almost every other race that she was in, and she sent an incredible message to the Europeans that an American skier can really compete in downhill.

MATTINGLY: Just when she was reaching the top of her sport, came a devastating downhill crash in Veil, Colorado at the end of 1996.

STREET: It was probably one of the most difficult times of my life, because I was taken away from something, you know, right in my prime, right when I was doing so well.

MATTINGLY: But just over a year later, Picabo Street would make a surprising comeback. In 1998, the skier captured the gold medal at the Nagano, Japan Olympic Games.

WHITE: She shocked everybody, because there was a lot of speculation going in, how is she going to do it? Is her knee OK?

STREET: It's a dream come true. I mean, it's a moment that you only dream of when you're young, and then when you start to build toward it, it becomes a goal, and then it becomes a mission. MATTINGLY: Suddenly, once again, her career came crashing down. Just a month after winning the gold in Japan, Street shattered her left leg in a World Cup event in Cransmontana (ph), Switzerland. She was off her skis and in painful rehabilitation for two years.

STREET: I did experience depression for the first time ever in my life after I broke my leg. I mean, I didn't even want to get out of bed, and that was weird. And so I just kind of dug in the bag and started looking for reasons to be happy, and I found a whole lot of them.

MATTINGLY: Street pulled herself out of bed and got back on the slopes. Now with several World Cup downhill wins under her belt, she'll have another shot at Olympic glory in the downhill race. But Street won't get the chance to race in the super giant slalom, the event that gave her the gold in Japan. Since her accident, Street has struggled in the super g, a shorter event with quick turns. This season, she didn't even qualify.

BIGFORD: I don't think it is possible to have the same confidence and domination as she had before the accident, because those things come from winning two consecutive World Cup downhill titles, and that was then and this is now. It is a different world.

MATTINGLY: But in Picabo Street's world of comebacks, anything could happen in Salt Lake.

WHITE: I think if she medals, she will be very happy. But, you know, there is always that part of her that wants to go for the gold. And always will.

STREET: And I really believe that if it's meant to be for me, it will happen. I'll be up there on one of those three steps. And if not, then I know that I'll be cheering for whoever is.


ANNOUNCER: Coming up, she dominated the winter games. And so did he. Where are they now? When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues.



MATTINGLY (voice-over): From 1988 through 1994, no woman dominated her Olympic sport like speed skater Bonnie Blair. The Illinois native captured five gold medals in three Olympic games. She was named Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year in 1994.

So where is Bonnie Blair today? Now, 38, Blair lives with husband and former Olympic speed skater, David Kruikshank (ph) in Milwaukee. She passes her time touring the country, giving motivational speeches to large companies. She also stays true to her Olympic roots. She ran the last leg of this year's torch run in Wisconsin. In 1980, 21-year-old Eric Heiden became a national hero when he broke Olympic medal records in Lake Placid. Heiden placed first five times, no small feat considering he took home more gold than 12 countries combined.

So where is Eric Heiden now? After the 1980 games, Heiden found his new athletic passion in cycling. In 1985, he won the U.S. Professional Cycling Championship.

He then graduated from Stanford Medical School, following in his father's footsteps by becoming an orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Heiden practices at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, and he's worked with the city's professional basketball teams.

He is also a member of this year's 2002 U.S. Speed Skating Team in Salt Lake as the team's physician.


ANNOUNCER: Coming up, the American who had to turn to Armenia to chase his Olympic dream, as PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues.




MATTINGLY (voice-over): Now for some Olympians who are overcoming the odds while chasing the dream.

Brian Sheimer (ph) was an unlikely bobsledder. Growing up in Florida, the football player from Morehead State had never even seen snow until he was 18. A trip to Lake Placid to try out bobsledding launched his world-class career in the sport. But through four Olympics at the top of his game, an Olympic medal eluded him. During the 1998 games, he missed getting a bronze medal by a fraction of a second.

BRIAN SHEIMER, BOBSLEDDER: Two-hundredths of a second short.

MATTINGLY: Since Nagano, the 39-year-old Sheimer (ph) has struggled with injuries and doubts about his career. With the Olympics in his back yard, he decided to give it one last try in this, his fifth Olympics.

SHEIMER: Coming into this next Olympics will be different. I'm the underdog.

MATTINGLY: At 30, Todd Eldridge (ph) is pushing the limits of his body to stay in a sport that he loves.

TODD ELDRIDGE, FIGURE SKATER: I don't overdo any day on the ice, because I know that being 30, it's hard to keep your body in great shape for a long period of time. MATTINGLY: In January, Eldridge (ph) won his sixth U.S. Figure Skating title, beating out younger competitors. With the title, came a trip to his third Olympics, but in his first two Olympic competitions, he skated away empty handed.

ELDRIDGE: I haven't achieved the goal that I wanted to achieve there and that's doing great performances.

MATTINGLY: And though he faces questions about his ability to land a quadruple jump, considered essential for a medal, Eldridge (ph) faces these Olympics with resolve.

ELDRIDGE: I want to go there. I want to do my job and I want to do a great thing, and you know, hopefully come away with a little thing around my neck.

MATTINGLY: While some athletes push to make return trips to the Olympics, others push just to make it in. Dan Jangigian (ph) loves bobsledding.

DAN JANGIGIAN, BOBSLEDDER: I actually went to this school in Calgary and just loved it, fell in love with it.

MATTINGLY: And he is determined to pursue it competitively, so determined that this Armenian-American not only convinced the Armenian Olympic Committee to let him compete, he also convinced his friend, Yurgo Alexandru (ph) to compete with him.

YURGO ALEXANDRU, FRIEND: He called me up one day and he said, "how would you like to go down a bobsled track?" I'm like, "what are you kidding me?"

MATTINGLY: That led to Alexandru's (ph) nerve racking first run down the bobsled track.

ALEXANDRU: I was having trouble breathing, you know. I was hyperventilating.

MATTINGLY: They practiced just their push on the streets of San Jose, California.

JANGIGIAN: In this kind of a set up, if you were to jump in the sled, who knows where the thing would go.

MATTINGLY: After poor showings early in the season, the duo qualified for the Olympics, in a finish straight out of Hollywood.

JANGIGIAN: We qualified the last run of our last race. It was the most unbelievable -- I mean just incredible feeling.

MATTINGLY: The little Armenian team that could, chasing the dream.


LIN: Todd Eldridge (ph) isn't the only figure skater still chasing the dream. Michelle Kwan is back for another Olympics after a disappointing second place finish in Nagano, Japan. She's chasing the gold once again.

A turn on the ice with figure skating champion, Michelle Kwan, next week on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Carol Lin in Park City, Utah at the Winter Olympics. Thanks for joining us.




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