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USOC brings out 2 stars to launch media interviews

After several days of wining, dining and shuttling some 150-plus media members to 2002 Winter Olympics venue sites during its four-day Olympic Media Summit, the U.S. Olympic Committee brought out two of its biggest stars to kick off media interviews.

Yes, those were Olympic skiing medalists Picabo Street and Tommy Moe sitting in easy chairs on a podium Monday morning in the Little America Hotel ballroom, not only talking about their skiing specialties but also offering minilectures on the likes of topography (Olympic downhill sites in Japan and Utah), anatomy (knee injuries) and psychology (the need for speed and coming back after injury rehabilitation).After trotting out Moe and Street for starters, the USOC hoped that the day would be all downhill from there for the media, with similar interview sessions planned Monday for coaches and athletes from speed skating, women's ice hockey, luge, figure skating and freestyle skiing.

Perhaps the biggest news of the opening session was Street's announcement that she was coming out of retirement - out of her retirement plans, that is - to likely participate in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Before suffering a severe knee injury last December, Street had eyed the 1999 World Championships in Vail as a fitting place to end her career. However, after blowing out her right knee - ironically, at Vail - she toys with pushing back her finale to the 2002 Games.

"I believe I'm probably going to be here in 2002," she said. "The opportunity to race here on home turf is too hard to pass up."

The 26-year-old Street may be one of the closest - and certainly most visible - ties that Utah has to the 1998 Winter Olympics when they open February in Nagano, Japan. She attended Rowmark Ski Academy, raced locally as a junior, has been in the state off and on during 1997 for rehab on her knee and is a member of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.

"I'm involved here," she said. "I know the ins and outs of everything."

Both she and Moe spent considerable time talking about having suffered severe injuries. Street's is the most recent and newsworthy, as she struggles to regain her racing form despite only 14 days of summer skiing this year.

Moe tore his knee up in 1995 on the same course where he won his '94 gold medal in Lillehammer, Norway. In fact, the injury occurred along a section of the course renamed "Tommy Moe's Channel" after his thrilling victory the year before. He's coming back from an even more recent injury - a severed tendon in his right thumb.

Several years after the fact, Street is using Moe's knee rehabilitation efforts as guide. "Having Tommy go from No. 1 to a blown knee to back to being No. 1 again, he taught me a lot by him making a couple of mistakes in his rehab."

She knows overanxiousness can be a fatal fault. "It's because we're racehorses - we want to get out there."

Street took the skiing world by storm in 1994, winning the silver medal in downhill competition at Lillehammer. The Sun Valley, Idaho, native followed with downhill honors in the 1996 World Championships - her second such title in as many years - and finished third in the '96 Super G.

Moe was a double medalist at the 1994 Games, taking the gold in the downhill and the silver in the Super G. He also claimed the downhill and Super G crowns at the 1997 U.S. Championships.

Also discussed is the ever-lengthening shelf life of the Olympian - such an extension of an athlete's competitive era was obvious at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Already a 12-year veteran of racing, Moe knows he'll be turning 32 - an advanced age for a ski racer - when the 2002 Games arrive in Salt Lake City.

Saying that 40 to 50 racing trips a year take a toll on his body, he said he'll consider competing at the Snowbasin site "if I'm healthy and having a good time."

Both Moe and Street gush when speaking about the Snow-basin downhill site, saying that it will serve as the best preparation for aspiring U.S. downhillers whose steady diet of easier American courses makes them ill-equipped for more extreme European sites.

"It's a difficult, demanding course," Moe said. "That's what we're going to need . . . something to really challenge."

Street agreed. "It makes the hair stand up on your neck . . . so that when you get to Europe, your eyes aren't bugging out."