Picabo has slim shot to join super-G team

It turns out Picabo Street still has a chance -- albeit a slim
one -- of defending her super-G Olympic gold medal.

Street, the only American to win an Alpine skiing medal at the
1998 Nagano Olympics, officially finds out Monday whether she'll be
on the U.S. super-G team at the Feb. 8-24 Salt Lake City Games.

Street had such poor super-G results during the World Cup season
that she failed to clinch an automatic berth on the U.S. team in
that event. The rosters for the U.S. men's and women's ski teams
will be announced Monday.

She already is assured of a spot on the U.S. squad for the
Olympic downhill, her best race and the event in which she won a
silver medal in the 1994 Games.

Even though Street said her 33rd-place finish in a race Friday
in Italy was "my last super-G," there's still a remote
possibility she'll leapfrog a pair of U.S. skiers with better
results and be selected to the squad.

Kirsten Clark, Caroline Lalive and Jonna Mendes all clinched
spots on the U.S. team for the super-G by finishing in the top 10
of a World Cup race this season.

Based on U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association guidelines, the top
contenders for the fourth U.S. spot in super-G would be Katie
Monahan, who has two top-20 finishes this season, and Julia
Mancuso, whose 22nd-place finish Friday is better than anything
Street has managed.

But USSA rules state that three skiers will be picked for each
event based on objective criteria such as competition results, and
that "coaches' discretion must be limited to no more than 25
percent of total named team."

That means the fourth spot could be based on more subjective
criteria, such as Street's position as defending champion and the
obvious interest fans -- not to mention broadcaster NBC -- would have
in her skiing in two events in Salt Lake City.

Street, who has struggled on the slopes since ripping up her
right knee and shattering her left thigh in a World Cup race in
1998, said Friday that downhill "is more natural for me."

She has two top-10 finishes in World Cup downhills this season.

"There are certain risks that you have to take in super-G that
I'm just not ready to take," she said.

But U.S. team selectors also know that Street cannot be counted
out of any race. She won her super-G gold medal in 1998 just 14
months after tearing ligaments in her left knee, and only a couple
of weeks after suffering a concussion in another skiing accident.

Already assured of a spot in the Olympics is Kristina Koznick, a
Minnesotan who trains independently of the U.S. team. She will be
the U.S. women's skiing squad's top medal contender.

Koznick has a win and a pair of second-place finishes in World
Cup slaloms this season, and stands a good chance at a medal in
that event. Her victory -- actually a tie for first place -- came
eight days ago in Germany.

"I think after what happened to us on Sept. 11, every American
will be cheering for me," she said. "I'm trying to plan it so I
can peak for the Olympics going home in February. I think I'm right
on track."

Bode Miller has been the top technical skier in the world this
World Cup season, and his selection to lead the U.S. men into the
Olympics will come as no surprise.

Miller has three slalom wins and a giant slalom victory on the
World Cup circuit, and is the only legitimate Olympic medal
contender for the men in Alpine skiing.