CHICAGO (Apr. 17) – Olympic champion Picabo Street (Park City, UT), who dominated her sport in the 1990s, headlined a group of 15 finalists for consideration to be named to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, presented by Allstate. Street, along with Paralympic champions Greg Mannino (Eagle, CO) and Sarah Will (Vail, CO), were named finalists Thursday at a press conference in Chicago, the USA's bid city for the 2016 Olympics.
The public will have a say in the hopeful selection of the U.S. Ski Team athletes. From now through June 16, fans can cast their votes for the 2009 class of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame online atwww.teamusa.org. The inductees will be revealed in early July and will be honored at a black-tie induction ceremony on August 12 at McCormick Place in Chicago. The U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame is the only national sports Hall of Fame that includes fan voting.
The U.S. Ski Team's Phil Mahre and adaptive legend Diana Golden-Brosnihan are the only skiing inductees in the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, which was established in 1983. The 2009 nominees were selected by a 10-person committee including past Hall of Fame members, historians, USOC officials and athletes. Among the 15 finalists are sprinter Michael Johnson and the 1992 basketball "Dream Team."
A Sun Valley native, Street left her mark in Olympic history in 1998, taking gold in the Nagano super G by a mere hundredth of a second. A three-time Olympian, she earned a silver medal at the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in the downhill. Street medaled in three World Championships, earning combined silver in 1993, super G bronze and downhill gold in 1996. Winning six of nine World Cup competitions in 1995, she became the first American to win a World Cup season title in a speed event. After a leg injury and two years of rehabilitation, Street returned to compete in 2002 in Salt Lake City before retiring. With nine career victories, she was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2005.
"It's a huge honor and I was very flattered. It's big company," said Street. "There's a lot of great people and athletes in the Hall of Fame and I hope the fans support me. That would be pretty cool.
"The nomination was kind of a flashback for me," she added. "I've spent the last couple of days reminiscing about what I've accomplished. When you're a mom, as I am now, you spend so much time trying to make sure your kids have what they need and you put yourself on the back burner. It's been nice to think about that again and feel good about myself and what I've accomplished in my life."
An avid skier as a child, Will was paralyzed from the waist down in a 1988 skiing accident. She took up mono skiing and was back in one year. Just a few years later in 1992, she won the first of 12 Paralympic golds and one silver medal. She capped her star-studded career at the 2002 Paralympics in Salt Lake City, winning all four events to become the most decorated women's mono skier in U.S. history and win the U.S. Paralympic Spirit Award. She remains active today at her home in Vail as an avid ambassador for her sport.
"It's one of the highest honors that I've ever had the privilege of being involved with," Will said. "The Olympic rings have always had a significant meaning in my life. I have a high respect for the level of competition I've experienced being involved in the Paralympic team. Being involved with the U.S. Ski Team as a Paralympian was a second chance at an Olympic dream that I thought I would never have.
"Being a part of the U.S. Ski team has given me the opportunity to fulfill not only my athletic dreams, but also taught me so much to help my professional career," added Will. "The opportunities it has given me are bigger or greater than I could have ever expected."
A five-time Paralympian, Mannino was a legend in adapative skiing winning six gold, four silver and two bronze Paralympic medals in his career. In his 1988 Paralympic debut he brought home silver in downhill and super G and would go on to dominate those events at the next three Paralympics. An electrical accident at age 17 resulted in the amputation of his left leg above the knee, but he carried his passion out as one of his sport's best standing category skiers ever before retiring after the 2002 Paralympics in Salt Lake City. He remains active in the sport in Colorado's Vail Valley.
"This is a real honor," said Mannino. "My biggest goal when I was racing was to compete with my peers and be looked at as a great ski racer - not a disabled ski racer. To even be nominated is truly an honor because it means someone saw what I was doing and that I had good success with it.
"For all the years I was on the U.S. Ski Team, it's good for me to be able to reflect back on the success I had."
The charter class of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame was enshrined in 1983, with such Olympic legends as Cassius Clay, Peggy Fleming, Jesse Owens, Wilma Rudolph, Mark Spitz and the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" U.S. Olympic Men’s Hockey Team. Annual additions continued through 1992, adding Olympic legends such as Bart Conner, Dorothy Hamill, "Sugar Ray" Leonard, Carl Lewis, Greg Louganis and Mary Lou Retton. In recent years the Hall of Fame has inducted numerous decorated Olympic athletes including: Bonnie Blair, Janet Evans, Florence Griffith Joyner, Dan Jansen, Kristi Yamaguchi and the 1996 "Magnificent Seven" U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team. Following last June’s induction of the Class of 2008, the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame currently consists of 213 distinguished athletes and 13 special contributors.
Nominees for the induction class of 2009 were selected by a 10-person nominating committee consisting of athletes, members of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, historians and USOC representatives.
U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, Class of 2009 Nominees
Greg Barton, canoe/kayak
Jeff Blatnick, wrestling
Valerie Brisco-Hooks, athletics
Tracie Ruiz-Conforto, swimming
Teresa Edwards, basketball
Gary Hall, Sr., swimming
Michael Johnson, athletics
Mary T. Meagher, swimming
Sheila Young Ochowicz, speedskating
Darrell Pace, archery
Terry Schroeder, water polo
John Smith, wrestling
Picabo Street, alpine skiing
Peter Westbrook, fencing
Willye White, athletics
Jean Driscoll, athletics
David Larson, athletics
Greg Mannino, alpine skiing
Tony Volpentest, athletics
Sarah Will, alpine skiing
1976 U.S. Women’s 4x100 Freestyle Relay Team
1992 U.S. Men’s Basketball Team
1996 U.S. Synchronized Swimming Team
1998 U.S. Women’s Ice Hockey Team
2002 U.S. Women’s Bobsled Team